Should we get rid of conductors?


The other good news has been the decision to install electronic ticketing machines in HRTC (Himachal Roadways Transport Corporation) buses. I really don’t know whether to cheer for technology or to moan at the irrational decision. I say irrational, because the electronic service would be there not to be at par with technology but to replace conductors, which the Corporation feels would cut down the losses it incurs by paying salaries to them. It would now on be the bus driver’s responsibility to distribute the machine-generated tickets after collecting money from passengers.

I wonder, why the Corporation felt short of saying that even drivers too should be replaced by robotic machines. So now we expect the driver to stop at stations, hand on tickets to the passenger and then get his hands on the steering. Conductors, I believe, that not only were there for handing over tickets to the passengers. They made sure that while giving a pass or taking a pass or backing up in the hilly terrain, the bus didn’t brush the other vehicle, or didn’t brush the rocks or the tyre didn’t go off the road at a kerb. The conductor was a helping hand during bus-breakdowns. While the driver guarded the bus, the conductor did the running around to look for a mechanic, calling up the Unit and informing the Transport Manager about the debacle and request for a replacement. Conductors were also a link between the passengers and the Corporation. So now on, expect the driver to get out of the bus and look for the distance between the bus and the cliff and then get back at the steering. Or rely upon the over-excited passengers. But it’s not the job of the passenger. Another thing, whom would the Corporation fix the blame, in case there are accidents in such a scenario?

And above all, the conductor gave company to the tired driver during the journey and at night. So now, we expect the driver to sleep alone in the bus in interior areas at night, with nobody to talk to and no entertainment. Will the electronic ticketing machine talking to him as well? But why does the driver need entertainment and company. Is he paid for that? Does the Corporation mean to say that. Ridiculous. Henceforth, we can expect the driver to go into depressions and have more accidents. Manpower could have been cut down at workshops, by upgrading technology there. Get rid of the conductor – It’s one of the most bizarre ideas that the Corporation could have come up with.

I hope, wisdom would dawn upon our bureaucrats and ministers who took this decision. It’s a good idea to have electronic machines, because it will also help in bringing down errors. In fact, a system should be in place which can count the footfalls and identify the passenger with a code and his journey in kilometres. This way, conductors who pocket most of the money without handing over tickets to the passengers can be checked. And I believe most of the times, the Corporation runs into losses, because conductors only charge half the fare from passengers and either don’t hand over tickets to passengers or hand over the ticket half the amount he’s paid. This way, both the passenger and the conductor have saved a lot. But the Corporation suffers and down go the services. And that’s why we have mostly sick-buses plying on routes.

So it would be both in interest of the Corporation and the passengers to install technology without getting rid of the conductors.

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A perfect story-teller, who is madly in love with the hills. Shimla is his first love, and probably the last too. Won't get tired reading Rudyard Kipling. Hopes to pick up poetry again soon.

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  1. I appreciate your thoughts and second them too. The kind of geographical conditions Himachal has the need for a conductor or (a navigator) seems natural. Apart from helping the drivers, the conductors in Himachal (i do not know about other places) act as messengers also. Often the village people trust them with their daily works like buying the news paper from the town, sending some message, suppling milk to their children who are studying away from home and some times even their monthly pocket money is sent through them. And if the conductors go, definitely the folks are going to miss them. Replacing men with technology seems a great idea in the modern context, but here …Naaaaaaaaaa…
    Hema D

  2. I endorse fully what you have written and what Hema comments upon it. The human interface that the conductors provide cannot be replaced by any technology. I have often sipped cups of tea, while travelling alone, with the driver and the conductor as a great company. Many a times, I have found them to be worrying a lot, when my daughter travelled alone, on account of whether someone will come to pick her up from the bus stand? The livliness that they add to the monotonous journey cannot be under rated. And especcially the HRTC conductors are a joy to be with!

  3. I fully agree – this technology is not used because we have labour shortage. To cut the costs of HRTC, one needs to look into its `purchase list’ and how much money is wasted on buying secondgrade material to keep the services floating. Add to this the quntum of people trvaelling without paying – especially in the interiors of Upper Shimla district.
    There is no consultative processes adopted by HRTC managment with its employees to bring back HRTC out or red.
    Subhash Mendhapurkar

  4. I am not fully agree with u guys, its true that cunductors plays an important role but H R T C have to think that how much they cost to the department .Friends, H R T C is running under continues loss every year and they have only two options either increase the fare or reduce their expences where ever its possible,they have to think practically and so do we.

    The only problem which i think after replacing the cunductor is assisting the driver in unfavorable conditions such as hilly areas sharp turns ,breakdowns etc and the department shound come with a sutable solution for this ,the problems mentioned above are our personnel benifits.The HRTC is not responsible for distributing milk, news paper and giving company to people specially when its free.
    The last thing i want to tell u that the countries like America,England , Australia (many more) don’t have cunductors in there buses.

  5. HRTC bus without a conductor on rural roads is unthinkable!! One must think that it is the driver who drives the bus, not so here, it is the conductor who virtually ‘owns’ the bus. Normally, on overnight rural routes, the conductor is a local fellow and enjoys a status of a folk hero. Forget the economics here for a moment, instead it is the sociology which makes HRTC the life line of rural areas.

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