Little wonder, despite massive demand for public transport, state carriers continue to make losses even as the private operators are thriving. The existing fleets of state-run buses cater to only 2% of the total passenger trips in the state. Issuance of fresh permits in Punjab has been suspended for a decade now after a stay by the Supreme Court and the state transport department seems to have decided not to challenge it and allow status quo.
The two leading state-owned transport companies, PUNBUS and Punjab Roadways, showed 100.3% and 90.3% average occupancy on all their routes, says the last "performance of state road transport undertakings" report of the road transport and highways department of the Union government. However, with many of their buses off road at any given time due to poor conditions, it has created enough space for private players.
On an average, each bus in the state covers 249km and overall all the buses cover 16,43,150km to transport 12.75 Lakh passengers daily. This means out of 5.6 crore passenger trip bus-based public transport, the state government only caters 2% of the total passenger trips in Punjab. For the intercity bus transport, Punjab has about 63 buses per 10 lakh population.
Navdeep Asija, technical adviser to Punjab government, said there is approximately one bus to transport 4,200 people daily and the state government should approach the Supreme Court to get the stay on issuance of permits revoked. "Expansion of the public transport is the only way to have better connectivity in the rural areas of the state," he said.
"The public transport scenario has gone awry in the past few years. A World Bank survey in Punjab in 2008 had appreciated introduction of luxury buses for bringing down the number of cars on roads as most people seemed to have begun to switch over from their personal vehicles. However, poor enforcement of norms has emerged as an area of concern," said a retired transport department official.