Saturday, July 3, 2010

New Delhi’s “killer buses”

100702 bluelineT.jpg

Photo posted on Flickr by "parveennegi1979" 11 July 2007.

On Sunday night, the Blueline bus chain claimed its third victim in just over a week. No surprise there - around 100 people a year die in accidents with the notorious service. Will the government keep its promise to get rid of the buses in time for the Commonwealth Games in October?

As host of this year's Commonwealth Games, the Indian capital is undergoing a massive transformation - incorporating the overhaul of its expansive transport system. The government is boasting the construction of brand new flyovers and roads, an extended metro network, and the promise of thousands of new buses.

Locals are particularly interested in the latter development, which they hope will see an end to the city's 3,000 notoriously dangerous Blueline buses. The vehicles are privately contracted by drivers who rent them for a daily rate of about 3,000 - 4,000 rupees [50 - 70 euros]. In order to be able to make a decent profit, and pay for the maintenance of the vehicle, they need to take on at least 500 passengers per day who pay between two and ten rupees for each trip.

The conditions have led to a highly competitive environment and consequently, reckless driving. Some 1,000 Blueline deaths have been reported over the past decade, leading locals to call for their removal. Bus drivers involved in accidents more often than not flee the scene, and those who don't, risk attack from bystanders.


A busy Blueline at night

On a three-lane carriageway at night, passengers hang off the back of a packed Blueline bus (00'16 seconds). Video posted by "adkamble" 21 October 2007.

“Taking a Blueline, you never know if you’ll come home alive or in a body bag”

Anurag Agarwal is a supermarket manager from New Delhi.

The buses are hell to get on; the drivers barely stop to let anyone on and then you have to run and jump as the bus accelerates away. Once you're on the bus, the ride is terrifying. The drivers brake and swerve without warning; sometimes they hit a car or bike and just carry on. To top it off they're generally very rude.

They drive like that because they want to get as much money as possible. There's no daily limit, so it's a competition of getting as many passengers as possible. The buses have set routes but they don't always follow them and they stop wherever they want - bus stop or not.

The reason people hang off the front and back of the bus is because there are so many people inside. Maximum capacity is 42 people but you often find 65 - 70 inside. To make more money, the drivers allow them to hang on somewhere. They still have to pay the same fare as those inside.

The end of the Blueline thwarted by corruption?

The government's promises are empty. When the Commonwealth Games starts in 90 days, I'm absolutely sure the Blueline buses will still be here. Neither the government nor the bus unions want to see them go. There are too many corrupt politicians in the government who have given Blueline licenses to contractors who then return them with a share of the earnings. And even if the government really tried to get rid of them, the Blueline bus unions are very powerful and would not let it happen.

The government has tried to make it look like they are doing so however by bringing in somenew buses. I must say they are superb; their drivers are very professional. But they can't infringe on the territory of the Bluelines, so only serve less populated areas. For the masses, they're left with the Bluelines...

I can afford a car now and no longer take a Blueline to work - what a relief! Taking a Blueline, you never know if you'll be coming home alive or in a body bag."

Anurag Agarwal's picture

Anurag Agarwal

  • India
  • Retail manager

A typical trip on a Blueline bus

Queuing to get onto a Blueline bus. Photo posted on Flickr by "myan_sahab1" 9 Nov. 2007.

Posted on Flickt by Anindya Chattopadhyay 28 July 2007.

Posted by Mayank Austen Soofi 12 Feb. 2009.

Photo posted on Flickr by "onlyromi" 23 August 2009.

Protesting the "death line"

Candlelit march against what they call the "death line" in 2007. Posted on YouTube by "sheel1andoly".

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