BANGALORE: The bus that never got stuck in a traffic jam and never gave the bumpy ride to its passengers for the last 20 years has retired after a journey of about two lakh km. It now rests amid greenery in Cantonment station’s shunting yard. Made in 1997 by BEML, the rail bus first plied between Kolar and Bangarpet after the upgrade of the railway track from metre gauge to broad gauge.
“The rail bus was introduced mainly to keep the track in shape as unused lines rust and lead to many problems,” a senior official in the Bengaluru Division of the South Western Railway said.
The official said it was the only rail bus in operation in Karnataka and one of the few in the entire country. “The bus had an Ashok Leyland engine, similar to the lorry engines. It had a seating capacity of 52 and saw good patronage on Kolar-Bangarpet route,” the official said.
With two pairs of rail wheels, the bus weighed 60 tonnes, compared to the 112 tonne weight of the single locomotive.
“Those who drove the bus were locopilots but they needed a week’s training. The rail bus had no major technical operations but the sheer difference between the locomotive and the bus engine made the training necessary,” the official said.
The mileage of 5 km per litre diesel was, however, hardly economical as the cost overran the revenue from fares. The Kolar-Bangarpet route got a diesel electric multiple unit (DEMU) train in September 2016.
“The patronage to the bus on tracks fell drastically after it was transferred to Yeshwantpur-Nelamangala route. There were hardly 10 passengers per trip. Nobody expected revenue from it, but they almost hit the ground in this route,” a railway official in Yeshwantpur station said.“The rail bus offered a decent journey to commuters at affordable prices when compared to buses on roads.
Compared to any modern buses, it was a decent jour-ney. However, the noise inside was unbearable as the engine’s noise was not properly covered,” said Krishna Prasad of Karnataka Railway Vedike.