Constant bus driver exodus is PMPML’s latest BRTS issue

Contractors claim many leave the job as they are unable to grasp technicalities; PMPML has to keep repeating trainings
There is clearly no end in sight for the long saga of travails on the city’s Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) -despite the recent opening of the spanking new Sangamwadi Vishrantwadi corridor under Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and Sangvi-Kivale corridor under Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC).Now, Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) has a problem retaining skilled and trained drivers on these routes, because the contractors who hire them seem to be facing continuous attrition. As a result, PMPML has to keep repeating trainings for the new drivers, which is causing them serious worries.

On both routes, contractors run the buses and supply a driver, while PMPML supplies a conductor.

Mayura Shindekar, PMPML chief executive officer (CEO) and BRTS project head, said, “When we started both the corridors last year, brand new buses of contractors were sent forth and each driver was trained on how to operate these vehicles. This is very important, as it instructs them on the Intelligent Traffic Management System (ITMS), GPRS tracking, docking the bus properly at stations and many other things. Over the last couple of months, these drivers have been continuously changing. As a result, each new driver needs to be trained all over again.“

She added, “It becomes very difficult for us to spend money and time on this. Contractors claim the drivers keep quitting because they find it difficult to operate the buses, so they run away within a month of joining.“

The 7.1-km route from Sangamwadi to Vishrantwadi under PMC was launched on August 30, 2015, while PCMC’s first BRTS (and Pune’s second) route from Sangvi to Kiwale started on September 5 last year. Every day, at least 600 con tract buses ply both these routes on different schedules, for which at least 315 drivers are needed.

Asked if PMPML is monitoring contractors while they recruit drivers, Shindekar said, “Our engineering and BRTS departments monitor the operations of contractors’ buses every day. Each driver has to have a valid licence for heavy vehicles and other necessary verified documents -only then is she trained. We have given strict instructions to contractors to keep driver numbers constant from now on.“

Speaking anonymously, a PMPML bus contractor told Mirror, “We do recruit drivers properly, giving advertisements in newspapers and verifying their documents. But, the problem is that many come from outside Pune, like Satara, Dhule, Solapur and other parts of the state. When they find it difficult to drive BRTS buses, or get paid more elsewhere in private jobs, they leave sans intimation.“

Commuters have their own worries. Sachin Alande, a regular on the Sangamwadi route, said, “BRTS drivers act like they’re in a race, with scant regard for the presence of passengers. This route is always crowded, and when buses stop at stations, they are often not docked properly. This presents a great risk to us.“ Commuter Namrata Shah said, “In the evening, when the buses are jam-packed, many commuters suffer. Drivers are rash and we cannot stand properly in the buses as they keep moving even once they have docked.“

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