Bus to e-rick, public transport gathers speed
The Delhi government’s intention to better the transport set-up in the capital saw the 2016 budget bifurcating the usual head of transport into public transport and road infrastructure. The government complemented this step by lowering the value added tax on electric vehicles and exempting them from payment of road tax. And then in an apparent bid to ease traffic congestion, the government proposed to encourage e-rickshaws by increasing the subsidy available on them.
The allocation of Rs 1,735 crore for transport represents 8.4% of the plan outlay. A chunk of this will be used to procure buses and to construct bus depots. Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia earmarked Rs 325 crore for buying 1,000 low-floor, non-AC buses and to add 1,000 buses to the cluster bus scheme. However, officials later conceded that because each low-floor, non-AC bus costs Rs 35-40 lakh, the funds allocated for the shopping might prove inadequate. Sisodia also clarified that the introduction of a premium bus service with 1,000 vehicles would follow a “purely market-driven model”.
The budget reiterated its commitment to the older projects, some of them announced during the budget last year. These include creating more bus terminals, renovating inter-state terminals, building bus queue shelters, and installing electronic ticketing machines, common mobility cards and a passenger information system. Many of these have been in the works for several years now.
Perhaps based on the pilot project in running an electric bus earlier this month, the government reduced VAT on electric vehicles from 12.5% to 5%. Such vehicles have also been exempted from paying road tax. “There are only 65,000 electric two-wheelers and cars in Delhi roads,” said Sohinder Gill from the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles. “The Delhi government can strengthen this number by introducing supportive policies and measures like building infrastructure in terms of charging stations, etc.”
Subsidy for an e-rickshaw was doubled in the hope that the battery-operated trundler will help ease road congestion and bring down pollution. To date, 3,709 e-rickshaws have registered with the transport department. They have availed subsidy to the tune of Rs 4.97 crore. The 2016 budget step is expected to encourage more e-rickshaw registrations, which have been slow due to high prices and a cumbersome registration process.
The budget announcement of new bus depots at Rewla Khanpur, Dichuan Kalan, Karkari Nahar, Bawana Sector 1 and Dwarka Sector 22 is a reiteration of previous projects, though the status of some have changed since the last budget. For instance, work at Dichuan Kalan has already started. The renovations of the inter-state bus terminals at Sarai Kale Khan and Anand Vihar are on-going projects, while the new terminal at Dwarka is a leftover of the 2015 budget.
In a departure from last year, Sisodia has chosen the public-private partnership model for the construction of 1,397 bus queue shelters after the stalled erection of 1,200 shelters announced in 2015.Delhi Metro has been allocated Rs 763 crore, but that is part of the annual funding, explained officials.