Luxuria Volvos to Bangalore don’t end regulatory mess

India’s inter-city bus operations continue mostly on the model of the 1960s regulation, which precludes genuine expansion in a regulated manner. Thus you have rickety State government buses (kept that way to let the private operators have a better image), and high-cost private operators with the latest multi-axle vehicles. As the media frequently notes, these private operators charge arbitrarily.

In this murky regulatory scenario, we recall the start of operations by the Raj National Express some years ago. Although their Volvo buses were running full, the service was quietly withdrawn for reasons not very obvious.

Now comes a report that Blue Hills, which runs the Nilgiris store chain, is launching an even more luxurious bus service between Chennai and Bangalore, with Volvo B9R buses fitted with designer gizmos as this report mentions. It is telling that the report does not give us an idea of travel costs. Apparently, many more buses are to be inducted into the fleet.

The answer to an orderly and transparent expansion of inter-city bus services would lie in a legal framework with open participation. If the Government seeks to run the service as a monopoly, that has to be regulated too, although it would be much more preferable to open it up to multiple corporations that can then compete transparently. A discussion on regulation has been launched by the Thangaraj Committee on transport.

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