Himachal Roadways: Time for a turnaround – 2


By: Manish Verma

We discussed how far we’ve come. Now let’s talk about the way ahead. HRTC (Himachal Roadways Transport Corporation) introduced a new fleet of hi-tech buses in Himachal way back in 1999-2000. These buses had TC engines and modified interiors, including comfortable seats and larger windows. These changes forced others to improve their services. But since then, much hasn’t changed. In fact other’s like Haryana Roadways have taken the lead by providing better service and adopting better managerial practices.

Figuring out the problems in the system is not difficult. Every time I travel, I end up thinking that until when we’ll be thought of as just another kind of consignment to be transported on buses build on chassis meant for trucks. I feel sad when instead of doing anything to improve their service, they try to cut cost by reducing the number of employees or removing the conductors which hurts every employee’s moral, irrespective of the sector they are working in. Let’s take up one by one, what HRTC can do to improve its service and reputation.

What’s your experience?
Business or lack of it comes from the behavior or the choices a customer makes. In HRTC’s case, a passenger, and the quality of product of the service provider. When we are offering a service like transportation, we are basically selling an experience and it’s this experience, which will bring those customers back to us. For this, the first thing is keeping a tap on customer’s pulse. It in itself requires lot of research and surveys.

Anybody cares for my feedback?
The present feedback system is lethargic. One way to get feedback instantaneously is by giving questionnaires to the passengers and collecting them within the journey (where ever possible). Best suggestion can be awarded later. Additional data can be obtained to determine peak passenger traffic times, days, weeks and months. Besides getting a first hand account from the passenger, it also instils confidence in the passenger that the service provider cares for you and values your feedback.

What else can you give me?

We don’t have much choice in pricing of services. The only way to attract customers is by adding value to the product. To make them appealing, the design of buses should be modified. I wonder why always a sarkari bus has to look like a sarkari bus. Nobody can deny that aesthetics do play an important role in influencing consumer choices.

Are we travelling in boxes?

These buses usually have poor workmanship, to add to this, the combination of green-yellow interiors, broken or missing window latches and untidiness makes journey unpleasant. Bus body manufacturing is definitely not the core strength of HRTC; they should opt for factory built coaches that have better appearance and ergonomic design. There should be a separate fleet of such high capacity buses, meant only for inter state routes and these should be run during peak passenger traffic timings.

Presently there are three categories of buses by HRTC; The so called hi-tech (ordinary) bus, the deluxe buses which charge double the fare and Volvo AC coaches which charges almost three times the ordinary fare.

Please make me comfortable
Now, I believe that there is a huge untapped market constituting of people like me, who definitely don’t want to get wrecked in an ordinary bus, but can’t afford the luxury of a deluxe or Volvo. But I would be more then happy to pay an additional Rs 50-70 for a semi-deluxe kind of bus which provides me just the facilities for a comfortable journey. I am not demanding luxury but just the things that make a journey comfortable and I am willing to pay a reasonable price for that.

Where do I keep my luggage?
While travelling, the two basic things that a customer wants are Comfort and economy. The first thing that I always notice is that the bus looks very congested and the aisle is filled with all the suitcases and bags causing difficulty in passenger movement. For this, separate luggage space should be provided under the side body or a dickey in back of such buses.

My back aches…
Instead of crafting the buses on a truck chassis, should have air shock absorbers, which provide cushion from bumpy roads. It doesn’t cost much to modify a bus accordingly. The ordinary seats should be replaced with ergonomically designed push back seats. But I feel that even the Volvo buses too are not designed ergonomically. All seats leave a room for slouch, which at the end of the journey would put the back out of shape. Ergonomic seats should provide a cushion for the mid-riff so that instead of forming a curve, the back is pushed ahead to keep the spine straight. For the record, the spine does not form a 90 degree.

Where’s the broom?
Cleanliness is indispensable. These buses should be given priority in maintenance and should be regularly washed.

It’s an age of branding
Last but not the least comes promotion, which should be done through carefully designed schemes and a punch line, besides highlighting the special features prominently.

At one time TATA and Ashok Leylend were the only two leading suppliers of bus chassis. But, now many established players like Eicher Motors and Force-Man Motors have come into the arena. They should also be given due consideration.

So what do you have to say?
These are only few of the suggestions that ran through my mind. A detailed discussion may further bring out really good solutions. HimVani has been providing feasible solutions to various social problems as in case of roadside dhabas, where we recommended certain remedial measures to the government. Hope we come out with something similar this time. So what do you say. Please use the form below. We can compile these suggestions and approach the government with the list.

Previous articleChamba artists out to popularise miniatures
Next articleSahan explores traditional employment avenues

No posts to display


  1. I am totally agree with manish….i think the need of hour is to make transportation dept autonomous like DMRC as govt has nothing to do with this business….but the problem is the depatments like this and power etc. are bread and butter for politicians and bureaucrats….so the question is who will do away the management rights from these corrupt(sucking like leech) people….

  2. On a recent trip to India, I rode for about 20 miles on HRTC bus. My local friend said "This is why I told you not to take the bus from Delhi. It's always BRUTAL on body and spirit." If long distance is as bad as local service buses, I'm glad I got better transportation.

  3. Recently, HRTC has started Semi-deluxe bus service from Delhi to shimla. It departs at 9 o'clock in the morning. I boarded it on my return to Delhi this time, but surprisingly there were not many takers to it. the 40 seater bus had only 8-9 passenger on board. It was only after after Ambala that it got few more commuters.

    At first I was happy to shell out 30% extra for this journey, but later I realized that it still wasn't worth it. The bus is definitely more spacious with push back 2×2 seats, but the journey can hardly be termed as comfortable. One still get the jerks in pretty much the same way as in an ordinary bus. To add to this, as i've mentioned earlier that HRTC designers don't have any aesthetic sense, the bus has miserable interiors (like ugly blue curtains).

    Everything fades away in front of Haryana Roadways which has started similar bus service and you can see the diffrence it has got (it doesn't look like a sarkari bus at all).

    well thats not all, some of the passengers were complaining about slow speed of HRTC buses on Chd-Delhi route. most of them drive at 50-60 KMPH for maximum fuel efficiency. I think there isn't much that could be done about this. Driving fast or slow is a matter of habit of individuals and they can not be forced to drive a little bit faster.

    The last thing I mentioned was promotion and publicity. I was not even aware that such service has been operational for a month, I just discovered it by chance. Haryana Roadways has launched the bus service with a catchy slogan "AAM ADAMI KI KHAS BUS".

    Its good that HRTC has Online booking facility. It could be made more user friendly by allowing them to create user accounts as in irctc (Indian Railways) website. Every booking should fetch them some points and upon accumulation of certain number of points they may be given concessional travel passes or gifts or something like that. But, not many people use online booking facility, so similar schemes could be run on normal ticket booking counters also.

    Well everything said and done; in the end what matters is your product. if its not good, it won't sell and eventually die out. But probably not HRTC , till it keeps on getting patronized by the Govt of HP.

  4. The Haryana Roadways buses may be better than HRTC. But the drivers and conductors of Haryana Roadways are rowdy and will leave you half way. They have no respect for elderlies or ladies. I prefer HRTC any time, even if they are not so good, at least I'm assured that the drivers and conductors are helpful anytime and I can bank on them. If I have to send my mother to Delhi from Shimla, I cannot rely on Haryana Roadways buses. I send her through HRTC and I just have to tell the conductor to take care of her on the way. And as my mother they'll keep on asking her through out if she is comfortable or needs anything.

    As for slow or fast, we've already had discussion on this forum that how fast Volvo drivers from Shimla to Delhi drive. It's really scary with them till Parwanoo and many a passengers suffer from travel sickness. It's better that they drive slow than meeting accidents. We are selfish people who want to reach early. But once we meet with an accident, we complain that the driver was driving rash.

  5. Of course, the behavior of HRTC drivers and conductors is Very helpful and decent. But I don't agree to the fact that traveling in HRTC is safer. I don't have exact record but I don't remember any incident where a Haryana Roadways bus was involved in any accident. where as I've seen or read about at least 4 accidents involving HRTC buses, some of them really fatal, in the past one year.

    A serious problem which I've seen quite often only in HRTC's night service buses is that of drivers facing sleep problems while driving. On one such occasion I saw the driver struggling to stay awake and driving with his eyes closed for few seconds. I immediately alarmed the conductor who then started talking to the driver. In another such incident the driver was feeling sleepy, but luckily for him there was another HRTC driver in the bus, who drove it for rest of the journey while the driver who was supposed to drive slept throughout the journey. I believe they don't get enough sleep because of improper transit facility and a different environment. This problem should be sorted out immediately, or else it is another disaster waiting to happen.

  6. Following are the good points of HRTC

    1. The employees (drivers & conductors) are very helpful. This can be attributed to the nature of himachali people.

    But the things which HRTC needs to look at:

    Let me start with Volvo service …..

    1. the charges of Shimla – Delhi are very very high. Service not worth.

    2. The Buses are not clean and as the buses are leased the drivers do not know how to drive in Hills. Many people are nausiatic in Parwanoo shimla sector.

    3. The porters who place the luggage require 5-10 Rs per piece, WHY ?????? this is no tip but a demand. No one objects.

    4. Maintenance of these buses is real bad, see Karnatka fleet of Volvo's Mysore – banglore specially, and that is for twice the normal fare

    Delux ….

    1. There is nothing deluxe about it, normal is far better. Please avoid. No value in travelling from these buses. Seats are Horrible…will give you backache for days.


    1. The best of lot wrt to money you are spending, if the bus is new.

    2. Again Maintenace keyword missing here.

    3. There should be 2 tiers… one with just 1-2 stops in thier journey. Should not be like stops at taradevi, kachi ghati, sankatmochan, barrier, old barrier, byepass, MLA quaters … I mean what is this …. People need to understand that they cannot get the bus to give a home drop. Although I get down at bypass, but I am okay with bus stand also.

    ONLINE Booking: Yes its done ..belive me ..but the service charges are 60 buck for a ticket……….What the hell… you are saving thier effort, printing on your own …why …but why do you need to pay that much. The website is himachalhotels.com which has tie up wit HRTC.

    Overall Verdict:

    Fleet needs a upgrade…and then maintained at that level.

    Hospitable nature of empoyees whould be projected to attract customers.

    Grading of bus services required ( Fas , Super fast..One Stop..multiple stop etc).

    Please keep bus-stands worth going the smoke is too much. I wish the minister who visits developed countries leran from thier bus stand designs ..rather than wasting Govt money……..

    I want the tax paid by me should reflect in some area atleast …….

  7. Fire everybody in HRTC, and sell it lock stock and barrel to Arriva or Connex Bus companies of UK. They know better how to operate a fleet of thousands of buses in tens of countries.

  8. The services of Haryana Roadways Panipat,Yamunagar,Kurukshetra are very poor.Passenger are in trouble in the behavior of Bus Drivers & Conductors.They are not carrying from Singhu Border to Side of Panipat.

    Please look after this matter.

  9. Well here's another instance when HRTC has been caught napping.

    The Haryana Roadways Semi Deluxe Bus charges Rs 150/- for Delhi to Chandigarh, which is just Rs 10/- more then the ordinary fare. Whereas, The HRTC is happily charging Rs 185/- for same category of service from Delhi to Chandigarh. They should revise the fare.

  10. The difference in fare is because HRTC pays a tax for plying through Haryana, which obviously Haryana Roadways doesn't. Even in case of a trip till Shimla, travelling by HRTC will be costlier again as it covers more distance in Haryana and pays the tax accordingly, than what a Haryana Roadways bus covers in Himachal.

  11. Ok, if that is the case, this should also be applicable on Haryana roadways buses plying on longer routes inside Himachal. for example Rampur, Manali, Dharamshala, Baijnath etc. As far as I know both the roadways pay taxes even within there state territories, which is printed on there tickets, however the quantum of tax paid may be different.

  12. The quantum of taxes certainly is different for a home state bus and out-state bus, but also the fare too comes into picture – what the state roadways has fixed per kilometre. The fares fixed by the Himachal government fixed for HRTC would be applicable irrespective of the state it's plying, plus the taxes of the other state. So if HRTC bus comes from Shimla to Delhi – it pays taxes to following states – Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh and Delhi; and off course then Himachal as well. It'll be paying maximum tax to Haryana as it covers the most distance through that state. The tax is proportionate to distance not because it's been fixed such but is proportionate to the fare applicable within X and Y distance.

  13. This is really a good forum. And the audience on this forum approves it that there is a big concern over the state of Himachal transportation. This is really good to read so many intelligent reviews and comments of the contributors. This makes me believe that change is just arroud the corner. And, I guess if State goverment still don't work this out and get their acts together they will loose out to Air Deccan and similar low cost airlines, though slowly and steadliy for sure.

  14. Some more suggetions

    1. The corporation, if not privatised, should at least be made atounomus just like PSUs free from the interfrences of the govt and polititians. I believe HRTC can do much better without them.

    2. The organizational structure should be changed so that there is proper responsability and accountability of each employee.

    3. Employee suggetion schemes and awards system should be initiated to promote and motivate efficient employees, with there names publicaly displayed in newsletters or notice boards.

    4. I don't know on what basis the depots have been formed. For example, Shimla has three depots all of them plying buses on common routes. Depots should rather be formed on bases of routes being served. Like shimla- 1 operating on long routes like Delhi and chandigarh. shimla-2 for intrastate long routes and shimla-3 for rural routes.

    5. Regarding Volvo services. Instead of hiring buses and its staff from private operators they should get these buses on lease and operate it through there own staff. for this adequate training should be provided drivers and conductors.

    The fares are highly prohibitive. They should be reduced. In southarn states these buses charges just double the ordinary fare.

    All the delux buses should be replaced with volvo buses and there frequency be increased. Delux buses are surely not worth what they charge. For whatever they have, it's not worth paying the double fare.

    one option to reduce cost of volvo buses could be to buy Volvo bus chassis and get body build by private bus body builders, as done by Punjab Roadways.

    Regarding push back seats, once you push them back it doesn't remains comfortable anymore. The head rest should be adjustable and the seat should prevent one from slipping forward. For this the bottom portion should tilt backward just like a rocking chair.

    6. Small capacity buses coming from farther places like reckong peo/keylong should not be run on long routes. instead these small buses should be switched to high capacity buses from shimla/Manali and vice-versa.

    7. The buses are stained with vomiting by passengers on hilly routes so cleaning workers could also be hired to clean buses on state exit points or major stoppages like Parwanoo or chandigarh.

    Well thats all from my side, I wish these suggetions doesn't fall on deaf ears and they do make some improvement. and next time I have to travel in a HRTC bus, I don't have to give it a second thought.

  15. HRTC

    The way HRTC works is that it has various transport divisions fashioned. E.g Shimla, Mandi etc Some divisions like Rekong-Peo(Kinnaur) and Spiti etc come under rugged hill routes and buses over there are replaced after some specified kilometers. And these buses are then sent over to the other divisions where those buses could still be run.

    Irrespective of the various divisions, all divisions run buses on local smaller distance route and long distance routes as approved by HRTC headquarters.

    If you look at the current transport scenario, overall they are doing a commendable job but it is a bit ad hoc in the nature. The buses on both local and long routes are shabby in the conditions. As far as the social obligation duty is concerned, HRTC has done an excellent job. But it has so far never made any money for the state govt.

    HRTC would have to structurally change the way they operate if they would like to see themselves financially viable in the long run.

    A compromise formula has to be arrived at.
    This would involve separating the loss making smaller routes operations from profitable interstate routes.

    Smaller local routes (Service routes)
    HRTC does an enviable job in serving hitherto loss-making routes in various rural areas of Himachal Pradesh.
    1) The routes, which are consistently losing money, should be duly noted down. The HRTC should ask Govt of Himachal for cross subsidy to run operations on these routes.
    2) Gives these routes to the private bus operators. Give them tax benefits on these loss-making routes and provide easier and cheaper bank loans for buying vehicles. Preferably to the local farmer Federation or the village panchayats.
    3) Over long run try to exit the loss making routes.

    Interstate routes

    Identify the profit making routes. (Premier routes)

    1) Traffic routes on the tourist circle. Shimla- Chandigarh- Delhi, Manali-Delhi, Kangra-Chandigarh-Delhi
    2) Traffic routes on the religious ciricle. (Jwalaji, Kangra, Dharamshala etc)
    3) Traffic route between densely populated city centers. (Una, Solan, Baddi etc)

    There are many more routes. These are the cash cows. Here HRTC can provide superior services. But they can not expect people to sit in cramped buses of HRTC.
    They will have to invest in infrastructure.

    This brings us to the question of how they are going to achieve that.

    1) Local bus stands have to provide basic facilities like rain shelters and toilet etc. Tie up with local gram panchayat in day today running of local bus stops. Ask himachal govt. to provide budgetary provisions for bus stands in panchayat funding.

    2) In cities
    Lease the bus stands to private operators on Build Own Transfer basis in the major cities. Provide superior facilities to the customers who would in turn rely on HRTC.
    The private builders can rent out the space to various commercial establishment like eateries, internet shops or run hotels etc for earning revenues.


    The only way cost cutting can be ensured is by computerizing the department.
    Install smart card in each bus. So that details like fuel put, driver at any time, tier retreading checks, time of leaving any bus stop(starting or interim) etc can be noted in the system.

    1) Computerize the whole system. Try to do away with paper work. This should see that all sort of entries. Be it regular safety checks of the buses or the amount of diesel put inside the buses at any location in the state is duly noted.
    2) If possible try to install card readers. So that the loss making local routes which loses money due to corruption (“tanka marna”) by bus-conducter can be done away. So on local heavy routes like say shimla this can work. Punch in the card before you get inside the bus
    3) Develop seats which are spacious and comfortable for the people. Redesign the buses. The current buses are very shabby looking and uncomfortable. The seats are small and the windows are designed in weird way. The height of the buses is too low. The buses are heavy and consume a lot of fuel.
    4) Open own retreading plant for bus tyres.

    4) Increase surprise ticket checking in the buses.


    No amount of service is good for HRTC if the ticket can not be sold.

    If a customer arrives at the bus stop, then you cant blame him whichever bus he takes. If you have already booked the passenger to your bus two days ago, he will get on to only your bus.
    1) Encourage online booking
    Encourage all the internet shops, banks like HP-cooperative banks and other banks to provide online booking to passengers for a nominal fees.
    2) Encourage phone booking.
    Open a central hotline phone number for ticket booking with a central database. Give booking and collection rights to private enterprise. So that even a local grocery shop owner can book a seat by calling up hotline number for a nominal fee and the receipt is valid in HRTC buses.
    3) Conducters can be done away on some routes.

    The driver can double up as conducter for punching tickets since the stops are low. Open the buses with only one door which is in front of the driver only. Put pneumatic doors. This will save a lot of cost. This already works in Bangalore.

    Bus Body

    Services routes
    The body of the buses for “Services routes” can be done in the regular coach factory of HRTC cheaply. HRTC should do R&D to come at cheap, light yet strong body which is fuel economical.

    Premium routes
    For premium routes, buses can be bought from either the manufactrer or a bus body builder. It has to be imperative that premium routes with heavy traffic should provide better services since competition is stiff from other service providers. If Volvo comes as too costly, buses from TATA and Leyland can be bought. These buses can charge a premium for providing these service and people wont mind paying.


    Safety of the passengers is paramount. Ensure that the buses are routinely checked for any malfunction.

    In long term

    HRTC should become more of a regulatory body and give the license to private parties. HRTC should see to it that bus routes be given so that there is a healthy competition and yet the competition doesn’t kill the private operators.
    The regulatory body should be pro customer. And be stringent. Govt should not be in the business of providing services.

  16. please advise from changarh to Mandi ( Himachal Pradesh) Himachal roadways time table

    waiting for ur reply

  17. The suggestions are quite good and in my opinion differant type of luxary buses should be promoted with more stress on safety cleanliness and comfort .The new India is willing to pay for best service .The road side dhabas in India should be standardised,with the basic requirement ofaquaguard and fridge and clean kitchen with steel top.All such dhacs who follow such standard should be given some sign so that tourist can eat at standard eatery.Its better to pay more then paying more afterwards for treatment of diarrohea.All long route buses should have internet reservations.

  18. This refers to comment number 6 by Manish regarding night travel. I recently travelled from Chamba to Shimla by New Prem Bus Service. Upon reaching Bhararighat at 2 in the night the driver Informed that it was going to be a one hour break. They have a proper place for their drivers to lie down and rest. I saw other long route buses of the same operator, Payhankot-Sarahan & Dharamsala-Shimla stopping for rest. HRTC can also have such designated stops but the drivers here prefer dingy dhabas where they are offerred complementry sutta.

    Coming to another point travel within the state on state highways is still a pain in the bottom. Roads are hopelessly single lane. Nurpur – Dalhousie & Shahpur – Dalhousie is a very tiring journey. Same is the case for Shimla to Hamirpur & Nahan and on countless other roads in the state where even the best designed buses would be of no use!

  19. Speaking of tanka, watchout for the Haryanvi clerks at ISBT Delhi. Fare to Chandigarh is 135/ but they give tickets in the denomination of 9 & 5 and ask for 155/ rupees. This is quite a scam for the uninitiated.

    Kudos for HRTC hrtc staff for such good feedback. One from my side. During my student days at Calcutta had a harrowing time once while coming back to Shimla. Was practically broke when got down at Ambala station and no money to reach Shimla. Came out of the station and there was this Delhi Shimla bus waiting at 11 in the night. Reluctantly told the conductor my problem and requested him to take me to Shimla. And to my surprise he agreed and also offerred tea midway. Upon reaching Shimla I offerred him to pay the fare in the evening in the return trip. When I was back in the evening to pay the fare he probably was not expecting me but was pleased to see me with the money which he never took. This happened in 94 and we are still in touch as he is now posted in Recong Peo depot.

  20. All points raised are true.

    If we compare the behaviour of our Bus drivers & conductors it is far much better then other state buses.But if we compare comfort level then we are no where.

    So it means their may be many reasons either lack of technical skill i.e we are making the bodies of buses just like trucks.This is IT age & we should use the IT skills for the designing of bodies.

    2nd reason might be we don't want to use the latest techniques because it increase the cost.

    There might be any reasons but there must be a fresh brains to think over this matter or this should be transferred to private sector.

  21. its true bad busses are driven by good people, but the roads conditions are not

    good either. Just see when ever the M&M launches any of its SUV it first tests it

    in Himachal, that’s why we get Mahindras models before rest of country and

    most of M&M's ads are shot in shimla and surrounding areas because of same reason.

    But this observation that last time new busses were bought way back in 1999 came as shock.


  23. More buses should be provided by the Govt, during the festive season especially so as to avoid huge rush and chaos and conditions of buses should be improved. Seats should be made with ergonomically designed push back seats because passengers of all age groups travel and it becomes difficult for the old people who suffers backaches after a long journey.

  24. Artical is well written. I must say please find out why people prefer Hrayana road ways to HRTC. they have better seating capacity, they keep timing verywell. theire buses are more comfotable than HRTC. Increasing afew seats on long route buses at the cost of comfort defeats the idea of economising when buses go empty. or the HRTC becomes second prefrence to Hrayana roadways. then staff should be courtious at the moment bothe harayan as well as HRTC are sailing in same boat. Carry out surprise checks in the buses and also offices for better behaviour of staff and cleanly ness. Get the buses cleaned when they stop for meals etc. AS there is no choice with in the state roots so try to maintain them keeping in mind image of the state. let us start small improvement and then slowly make HRTC more preferable gardually things will become routine.

Comments are closed.