The Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) which is planning to restart the electric bus services at Sinhagad Fort after conducting trial runs last month, is now facing opposition from local villagers and transport association members who believe that the e-bus service will affect their businesses.
The PMPML runs 70 to 80 vehicles between the fort base and the top to ferry tourists. The service had initially begun on May 2, 2022 and was stopped on May 17, 2022 for safety issues.
Ganesh Gofne, deputy sarpanch Sinhghad Ghera said, “For many years, local villagers have been transporting tourists from the fort base till the fort top parking area. Last year too the PMPML tried to start the bus service and we opposed. We are doing the same this year too. If the PMPML restarts service, it will impact the livelihood of at least 80 families who earn from hotels, and food vendors at the fort.”
“The ghat section road near the fort is narrow and during monsoons tourists throng the fort. It is risky for PMPML buses to go through this ghat section. Last year, one of the buses rammed into a barricade on the ghat road and the incoming and outgoing traffic came to a halt. We have taken up the transportation of tourists as we know the entire ghat road well,” he added.
Currently, the transport vehicles include Sumo, Bolero and Trax. The total distance from the fort base to fort top is 12km. They charge ₹70 for one-way and ₹140 for a round trip per passenger. Whereas, the PMPML ticket fare last year was ₹100 for adults and ₹50 for children upto 12-years for a round trip.
Pandit Yadav, a hotel and transportation owner at the Sinhagad Fort said, “If the PMPML wants to restart the bus service they should recruit all the 80 to 100 youths who are currently offering transportation facility and give them ₹20,000 salary per month. Our livelihoods are dependent on this transportation business and if they stop it, we will all oppose strongly.”
Talking about the issue Pradip Sankpal, range forest officer, Pune forest range, said, “The trial runs of PMPML buses are done and will submit a report soon, we are also going to consider the issues raised by the transport members who are the local villagers and are conducting this business from last many years.”
PMPML to introduce new buses
Last year, 47,000 passengers travelled via the PMPML 9-metre electric buses which had a seating capacity of 32 persons. This year the PMPML is planning to introduce the mid size 7-metre bus which will be added to the existing fleet.
According to PMPML officials, the service is likely to start in the next two months. “The trail runs of the electric buses were conducted last month. We now sorting out other operational issues like parking spots and charging points. If there is opposition by local villagers, we will take it into consideration and will speak the forest department as well,” said a senior official requesting anonymity.
Tourist numbers to double in July
Due to monsoon, there is heavy rush of tourists at Sinhagad Fort. In June, 7,215 four-wheelers and 12,627 two-wheelers were recorded visiting the fort and in July, the numbers are set to double, said officials. Rush is mostly seen on weekends.
Sandip Koli forest department guard at the Sinhagad Fort said, “There is a rise in the number of tourists visiting the fort. Last weekend (July 1-2) there were 1,177 four-wheelers and 4,348 two-wheelers. The numbers are likely to double in July as the fort makes for a perfect outing.”
“I had gone to Sinhagad Fort with my family on Sunday, July 2 and there was a huge rush since morning. We started descending the fort at around 2 pm and it took us 2.5 hours to reach the fort base as there was a traffic jam on the entire ghat road,” said Sagar Abnawe a tourist.