Over the years, the pride of Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) — its fleet of luxury AC Volvo buses — has become a burden for the cash-strapped transport utility. Deeming them a white elephant, Transport Minister D.C. Thammanna has asked BMTC officials to chalk out a plan to transfer half of its fleet to Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) for better utilisation of the vehicles. The Minister told The Hindu that the corporation was incurring a loss of more than ₹90 crore annually on the operation of AC buses. “The BMTC runs more than 800 AC buses. There is scope to transfer half the fleet to the KSRTC, which can operate these buses on Bengaluru-Mysuru, Bengaluru-Tumakuru, Bengaluru-Kolar and some other routes,” he said. Among the reasons for the failure of luxury buses is Bengaluru’s notorious traffic. “Because of various factors, including heavy traffic, these buses cannot be operated for more than 150 km a day. This is nothing but under-utilisation of the fleet. The KSRTC operates inter-city buses where we can make better use of the fleet,” Mr. Thammanna said. BMTC officials refused to comment on the proposal. “The decision on how to better utilise the existing fleet will be decided at the higher level,” an official said. A senior BMTC official admitted that the corporation was incurring an average loss of ₹15 per km on routes where AC buses are used. “On some routes, due to growing traffic, these buses are operating at a speed of 15 kmph during peak hours,” he said. The BMTC introduced a Volvo AC bus in 2006 and gradually increased the number of buses. The corporation had introduced the service with two brand names — ‘Vajra’ for AC buses operated within the city and ‘Vayu Varja’ for its airport services. Over the years, it has received both brickbats and bouquets. While some commuters appreciated the move, saying that it would help people shift to public transport, several organisations said the BMTC should have inducted more ordinary buses instead of luxury buses that are not affordable for everyone. A BMTC official said that apart from traffic and congestion, other challenges were hike in fuel price, staff salaries, passengers shifting to cabs, and Namma Metro. “However, not all the routes are running at a loss. There is good patronage for these buses on routes having IT companies and [routes] to the international airport. The average occupancy is 50%,” he said. KSRTC’s problems But does the KSRTC need more luxury AC Volvo buses? Senior officials said that like the BMTC in Bengaluru, the KSRTC is facing problems in the operation of AC buses in Mysuru. However, KSRTC managing director Shivayogi C. Kalasad said they were open to the idea floated by Mr. Thammanna. “It is a fact that intra-city operations of AC buses are incurring losses. The KSRTC is also facing the same situation in Mysuru. We are incurring a loss of up to ₹20 a km. There is an idea that if these buses are operated between two city points, they can be better utilised,” he said. The official said the corporation was planning to cut down the size of its fleet in Mysuru and shift AC buses to other points, which include introducing services from Mysuru to the newly opened Kannur International Airport in Kerala, Madikeri to Kannur International Airport, and from Mysuru to various destinations in Kodagu district. “We are planning to operate AC buses to destinations within a radius of 100 km of Mysuru,” he said.