The new design is awaiting third and final round of clearance, likely to hit Kolkata roads in March 2020
Double-decker buses — a common sight on Kolkata roads till the 1990s — are set to make a comeback in the city in a new avatar in March 2020. The buses will, however, run on Bharat Standard (BS) IV diesel.
All new vehicles in India are supposed to comply with BS VI from April 1, 2020.
The new design is awaiting the third and final round of clearance. Once that is obtained, the ‘hop-on hop-off’ tourist buses will hit the roads.
“The government wanted to reintroduce double-decker buses as a novel addition to city's transport fleet. The model is environment-friendly. It will have more space for passengers,” said NS Nigam, transport secretary, West Bengal.
Nigam added that task of designing the buses was undertaken by the state government, since no standard design was available in the country. Importing buses would have been expensive, he said.
According to sources, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wanted to reintroduce double-decker buses since she assumed power, taking inspiration from European-style open roof double-deckers.
Such buses came to Kolkata in 1920, and were a popular means of public transport. However, they began being de-commissioned in the late 1980s. The last such bus to ply on Kolkata roads was over 15 years ago.
“We could not find a standard design of modern double-decker buses, so we selected a designer through a tendering process. Subsequently, the design has got two rounds of approval from Central Institute of Road Transport (CIRT). We we are awaiting the final approval, which is expected soon,” said Nigam.
He told Down to Earth that two such buses will hit the roads after the final road worthiness certificate is obtained.
“We are planning to first these buses as tourist vehicles — the kind of open-roof hop-on and hop-off mode as seen in several cities. Depending on their suitability for city roads, the department will consider integrating them into public transport and will allot routes accordingly,” the official said.
However, the transport department may make them electric, subject to technical clearance, to add the green quotient.
Around 80 electric buses ply in the city.
Ironically, double–decker buses were phased out of Kolkata on environmental grounds, as they ran on diesel and emitted black fumes.
Environment activist Subhas Datta said: “It’s a step in the right direction. I hope the buses are not only used as tourist vehicles.”
Datta said that if government wanted to reduce vehicular pollution, they should alleviate public transport as a whole and integrate double-deckers into the system.
“These buses can be linked with the metro rail as they can accommodate many passengers. Many metro lines are expected to open up across the city in the coming years. So the model can be useful,” he added.
A transport department official said that going ahead, they would like to explore the possibility of exporting new designs for other cities as well.
Presently, double-deckers ply only in Mumbai. The city has a fleet of about 50 such buses.
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