News : Helpline is of Little Help
Dec 8, 2014 -- Pooja Vijay Ramamurthi, a young woman, dreads travelling by Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses. A week ago, when she gave the conductor a Rs. 500 note to buy the ticket, he abused her for not getting ‘exact change’ and asked her to alight from the bus. The driver stopped the bus and said he would not start till she alighted from the bus. Luckily, a co-passenger came to her rescue and paid for her ticket.
Though Pooja lodged a complaint on the BMTC helpline, she had to contact the depot manager, who claimed that he was unaware of the issue. After shuttling between the call centre and depot manager for two weeks, she posted her experience on an online forum "Let’s Talk about Transport". As a result the BMTC officials dressed the conductor down.
There are several other commuters who also aver that the BMTC helpline is inaccessible, slow and ineffective. At a ‘Makkala Adalat’ held recently by the Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike, a commuters’ organisation, schoolchildren narrated problems they encounter while travelling by BMTC buses.
Madina Taj, mother of a student who was once pushed by a BMTC bus driver, said the helpline is "unhelpful". However, BMTC officials maintain that the helpline works, complaints are followed up, enquiries are held and disciplinary action is taken, unless the commuter agrees to settle the issue with the conductor. But they admitted that most complaints pertain to ‘small change’, which is a challenge to the organisation.
Kumar Pushkar, Director (Information Technology), BMTC, said a majority of the 1,000 complaints received each week is about ‘small change’ and a few about rash driving or vehicle breakdowns.
"Conductors do try to use the ‘small change’ problem to get monetary benefit. Until the ticket payment system becomes cashless, the problem will be there. In the meantime, we are trying to sensitise conductors and training them to be polite. But, it is a difficult task," he conceded.
Smart cards delayed
The cashless ticket system, which BMTC authorities had said would be introduced in December, has been delayed by three months due to technical reasons.
Kumar Pushkar, Director (IT), BMTC, said, "The smart card project is delayed as it depends on the Intelligent Transport System (ITS). The cards are now expected by March."
Once the automated system is in place, commuters can use prepaid smart cards to buy tickets. The cards can be loaded with cash using electronic ticketing machines (ETM), which will be available with conductors. The cards are based on chips enabled with radio frequency identification.
The cards could also be recharged online, at bus stations and traffic and transit management centres (TTMCs).
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation:
The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation, abbreviated to BMTC, is a government agency that operates the public transport bus service in Bangalore, India.
Published: Wednesday, December 10, 2014