Increased focus by central and state governments on improving road network and transportation under the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) has given a boost to bus purchases helping the segment buck the broader demand trend.
Implemented in cities like Ahmedabad, Pune, Rajkot, Bhopal, Indore, Surat, Amritsar to name a few, BRTS has found several takers. Its acceptance as a smarter and cost saving alternative to expensive projects like metro rail and monorail have pushed several state governments to adopt it.
India's largest medium and heavy (MHCV) bus makers Ashok Leyland and Tata Motors control 76 per cent of the domestic MHCV bus market. The segment posted nearly 10 per cent rise in sales during April-November period compared to the same period last year, according to data supplied by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM). This is even as the MHCV segment remained flat during the same period.
BRTS can make use of existing road network in cities or developing cities, though heavily congested cities like Mumbai and Bengaluru have space challenges and BRTS might not work. However, most 'smart cities' announced by the government will have BRTS.
The system thrives on bus dedicated corridors on arterial routes within a city or connecting two or more cities. It has bus stations and automated fare collection centers, like the Janmarg system adopted by the Gujarat government for Ahmedabad. Buses are low floor, automatic transmission buses and the doors do not open unless the driver opens it.
Ravindra Pisharody, executive director, Tata Motors, said, "BRTS requires a lot of planning because it is a change of habit for the pedestrian also. You need to create dedicated lines in which you have to prevent other vehicles from entering. There is a lot of talk about BRTS by the centre and the message is being passed on to the states. We are seeing lots of interest from the states".
Tata Motors medium and heavy bus sales rose by 17 per cent in the April-November period in the domestic market to 11,221 units. It has bagged an order for supplying 5,000 buses under BRTS which is a growth of 82 per cent according to company officials.
"Government activity is picking up. If you see the government purchases last year it was the weakest in a long time. This year the government purchases has been quiet high. Next 2-3 years will be very good for bus purchase. It has been subdued for the past few years post the recession but we see it improving", added Pisharody.
According to Tata Motors Ahmedabad, which has a network of 97 km under BRTS, is buying up to 300 buses every year. The city currently has about 250 buses running under Janmarg and is rapidly expanding its network. Janmarg has a higher average peak hour speed of 25-30 km/h as against 9-17 km/h of other traffic speed and ferries 120,000 commuters.
According to a study by done by National Institute of Urban Affairs and CIDCO about 20 cities will have 28 bus mobility projects which will be developed at a cost of $200 million (Rs 1,400 crore). At least nine cities of the 63 eligible cities in India have adopted BRTS so far.
Hubli-Dharwad in Karnataka will soon have a network of 22 kms under BRTS. The system will have open and closed bus corridors, automated vehicle tracking system and off-board fare collection system.