From Pride to Peril: Ahmedabad’s ‘Lal Buses’ Become a Safety Nightmare

The Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service (AMTS) oversees the red bus or Lal Bus fleet, but the operations are entirely entrusted to private contractors


AHMEDABAD, GUJARAT : Once a symbol of civic progress, Ahmedabad’s iconic red buses, fondly called ‘lal buses’, have morphed into a public safety threat.  These “red monoliths,” are plagued by frequent accidents, reckless driving, and a concerning lack of safety protocols. The statistics paint a grim picture: between April 2023 and April 2024, AMTS buses were involved in a staggering 353 accidents, tragically claiming 20 lives.

The Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service (AMTS) oversees the red bus fleet, but the operations are entirely entrusted to private contractors.  “It’s strange,” says commuter Jayanti Patel, “These contractors include former BJP MLAs, corporators, and even officials from the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation itself. Shouldn’t they be held accountable for the state of these buses?”

A recent incident near Jodhpur crossroads serves as a stark example. On May 12th, an AMTS bus careened out of control and rammed into eight vehicles after its brakes failed. Thankfully, there were no casualties, but the potential for disaster was evident.

Alarmed by this rising tide of accidents, transport authorities have finally taken some action. The maximum speed limit for buses has been capped at 40 km/hr. Additionally, bus operators will now be required to submit bi-weekly fitness certificates for their vehicles. A proposal is also on the table for the AMTS committee meeting on May 14th, mandating operators to investigate driver sobriety in the event of accidents.

However, questions linger about the effectiveness of these measures. “Placing the onus of safety on the same contractors who oversaw the previous lapses seems illogical,” says transport activist Mihir Desai. “What’s even more concerning is the complete lack of punitive action against these contractors for past safety and maintenance failures.”

The situation with Ahmedabad’s ‘lal buses’ demands a more robust approach.  Holding contractors accountable, stricter enforcement of safety regulations, and independent inspections are crucial steps towards restoring public trust in this vital public transport system.