The bus industry in India started with a focus on public transport, especially to cater to the common man. There were quality issues, but no one really cared. A comfortable journey that reduces travel time by a few hours was what Volvo bus operators offered to justify the premium fares, and people bought into it. The rest is history.
Many state transport undertakings have also acquired a fleet of fancy coaches, catering to the burgeoning demand from passengers, most of who do not mind paying a premium for travelling in relative comfort.
With demand from passengers soaring, transport operators are also placing orders worth millions of dollars, acquiring hundreds of modern new coaches. Consequently, the coach-building business in India is on the fast lane, and has started luring in major international players.
Between 1990 and 2002, there has been a significant increase in the bus fares without any prominent improvement in the monetary condition of the bus operators. This illustrates the genuine problems and difficulties of the bus operators to meet the requirements and legitimate expectations of the passengers. It is inevitable that bus transport services need immense improvements.
As the urban population is going to double in 25 years – about 600 million people by 2040 – the urban transport market will grow and could attract more investment. Growing environmental concerns and easy availability of information technology will fuel this growth. So demand for good quality buses will grow. Most Indian cities will not be able to meet mobility demand without state-of-the art bus transport. The country requires about 5,000 more buses a year. It is up to the government and the mobility service providers, and not just vehicle manufacturers, to create a financially viable market.