The Demise of the 'Red Bus' Means Congestion in Ahmedabad
Once famous as the 'Red Bus' of Ahmedabad (based on London's model of red bus), the Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service (AMTS) public transport service operated in the fifth largest urban agglomeration and the biggest metropolitan area of Gujarat State in India with a population of 6 million spread over 470 sq.kms.
There was a time when majority of the population in Ahmedabad used to walk, cycle, and use the AMTS bus services. But with the passage of time, the bus service started deteriorating in terms of service quality and passenger numbers.
Vehicle ownership rose dramatically as the city expanded in area and population owing to the lack of reach of city buses and efficient service.
The Glorious Past
AMTS was established with a special purpose to operate the city bus services in Ahmedabad in June 1940 as ‘transport bus committee’ under municipal act, special resolution passed by state government.
In 1947 the functional area of the committee was expanded and the municipal bus service started with 32 routes used by 50,000 passengers daily.
By April 1947, 60 municipal buses were operational, which brought an excitement to the citizens of Ahmedabad and also India because it was the first successful model of a ‘public bus service’.
A belief was prevalent that "people used to set the time of their clock based on municipal bus service timings – such was the perfection in the bus schedules".
But AMTS services have been constantly degrading since last two decades. Once, AMTS used to operate a full fleet on its own, but today more than 50% of the fleet is operated by private bus operators.
AMTS is an autonomous body and does not fall under administrative regime of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) but is highly subsidized by AMC each year by monetary aid amounting to 2000 million rupees.
The budget has been constantly increasing with high deficits. AMTS cannot manage the operations and maintenance costs without support from AMC; there is no question of being able to generate capital to buy new fleet and replace the aged vehicles on its own.
As of today, AMTS has a fleet of more than 800 buses and caters 0.9 million passenger trips per day.
Analyzing last decade’s data of physical and financial performance of AMTS (2002 to 2012), reveals the facts of degrading system.
Annual Average Statistics
More than 460
3% to 4% of total accidents
Bus fleet Held
593 (73% of total fleet)
Bus fleet age
Over age fleet
700 million rupees
3.5 kms. per liter of fuel
AMTS made highest accidents in the year 2007-08 when it had maximum fleet of the decade, also fatal accidents in the same period were high too. The curve of fatal accidents seems rising after 2010-11 while 2003 to 2006 had somewhat constant rate of annual accidents (see above graphs)
The graph of average fleet held by AMTS v/s actual operated seems to be reaching towards breakeven during year 2005-06 (see the proximity of the lines) but the gap starts widening after the year 2008-09, which means that more buses are either under maintenance and are un-operational due to any reason.
The more the buses lie idle, the more gap is created in public transport supply in the city, people do not get buses thereby creating more traffic congestion on city roads because of increased usage of personal vehicles.
The graph of percentage of overage buses to the total fleet seems to be very high from 2004 to 2010 after which it drops down drastically. The reason behind the drop down is that AMTS had a major addition of new buses procured under JnNURM (national urban renewal mission of India) starting from 2010 and the old fleet was scrapped.
The graphs of average buses operated monthly versus passengers carried clearly shows that there has been no significant increase in passenger numbers even after the increase in the bus fleet after 2005-06.
The numbers have been constant from 2007 to 2012 and eventually the bus fleet has started decreasing from 2008 to 2012. That means AMTS increased the fleet after 2005-06 with an aim to provide better public transport service in Ahmedabad, as well as cater more passenger ridership, but it didn’t end up into reality.
One can see that after 2005-06, there was a significant gap in the passenger kms offered v/s those actually performed; that means more number of buses lay idle in break down conditions and desired trips were not completed.
The above graphs compare average fleet operated annually v/s staff strength of AMTS. After 2005-06, the avg. fleet operations went high but the staff strength did not see any major rise.
The staff to bus ratio has to be balanced and the condition of minimum staff required per bus has to be satisfied which is not the case in AMTS as we can see from the graph of avg. fleet held v/s staff to bus ratio. The staff to bus ratio and the fleet held was almost close during 2002-03 after which the staff strength was on higher side till 2005-06 (more staff than that required per bus).
After 2007-08 the bus fleet increased but the ratio of staff to bus decreased. The gap still prevails - a major driving factor in buses lying idle for more time, not being attended or repaired quickly thereby affecting overall bus operations. The staff to bus ratio seems decreasing after 2009-10.
Analysis of the financial performance of AMTS gives a clearer picture about the degrading service.
The graph of annual deficit indicates that the deficit reduced drastically in the year 2008-09 compared to past years and suddenly rose to almost 8 times higher in the succeeding year (2009-10) after which it continued rising.
Even though AMTS procured new bus fleet with financial aid from national and state government and AMC, still their annual deficit went increasing even after 2009-10.
The pie chart on average annual expenditure by AMTS under various heads shows that thr highest costs are incurred on staff salaries followed by ‘other costs’ and then fuels and lubricants which consist of only 18% of the total expenses.
The graphs clearly show that while expenses towards fuel and lubricants have been increasing at a reasonable rate from 2002 to 2008, and start decreasing thereafter (this is the period when majority of the bus fleet was using Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as a fuel which is relatively cheaper than diesel) till 2010, it again starts increasing.
The graph below compares total income and expenses v/s average fleet operated by AMTS in the decade.
From 2002 to 2006 the average fleet operated went decreasing yet it witnessed increase in the annual revenue with relatively decreasing expenditure pattern.
By the year 2005-06, the revenue-expenditure lines were almost about to reach breakeven but there was a sudden increase in the annual expenses revenue as well as fleet operated till 2008.
From 2008 to 2009, the annual expenses decreased drastically and reached to a level far better than that observed in 2005-06 (see the proximity of lines) and the annual income maintained a constant level in increasing order.
After 2008, the fleet operated went down but annual expenses saw a sudden increase till 2010. This phenomenon is explained by the fact that the fleet operations decreased but expenses increased due to a constant rise in fuel prices as well as more fleet being operated on ‘gross cost contract’ model by private operators, thereby putting AMTS into more financial hardship.
Ahmedabad is the fifth largest city in India and the biggest urban agglomeration of Gujarat state. In the coming years, Ahmedabad shall reach population of 10 million with an area of 1000 sq. kms. and so expects to see an increase in vehicle ownership in the city. Today Ahmedabad has about 2.5 million registered vehicles against a population of 6 million.
Will AMTS be able to cater for the rising transport demand of the city against its degrading performance in terms of finance and fleet operations?
With the financial aid from the national urban renewal mission, AMTS was able to replace its aged fleet between the years 2010-2012. But will it be able to make itself financially stable and replace the aged fleet in future in the absence of national urban renewal missions?
By adding new buses to the fleet, AMTS has tried to improve the image ‘Red Bus’ in Ahmedabad, but the very fact is that AMTS is highly paralyzed in terms of finance as it has to depend on Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation every year to obtain high subsidies: 2000 million rupees.
The overall management of AMTS has therefore failed; there is no scope for any future improvement given the current administration until changes are made at grassroot level.
Mr. Dave, based at Ahmedabad-India, works as an Independent Consultant in Sustainable Urban Transport Programs/Projects. He is a passionate researcher and doing research on urban transport is his favourite time pass. He was actively involved in planning and ground implementation of BRT in Ahmedabad which is India's 1st successful Bus Rapid Transit System. The project has won many national ...