The articulated buses plying the Metro Bus track will test three types of air conditioning units for a week starting June 17 (today).
The units were imported after most of the 45 Metro Buses that started operating on February 10, developed an overheating problem. The 18-metre long buses started malfunctioning as the weather turned sweltering hot in May.
According to Punjab Metro Bus Authority (PMA) officials passengers would start complaining about the heat in the compartments as early as 11am. Around 1pm, the engines would start overheating and the drivers would have to dock the buses to let them cool down.
Three types of air-conditioning units were imported on June 13 to address the problem. The buses would test their functioning for a week starting Monday. The best type would then be selected for installation in the buses running on the Metro Bus route. The problem has also caused a 30-days delay in the import of 19 new buses from China.
Officials of the Platform company, that is managing the bus service, said that the fault did not entirely lie with the buses.
More than 200 passengers were boarding the buses at a time, though they were designed to accommodate no more than 150 passengers and have only 38 passenger seats.
As many as 250 passengers were known to have boarded a bus during rush hour. This not only affected the temperature in passenger compartments, but also caused the engine to overheat, they said.
The problem continued for 20 days before the PMA decided to take action. Issue meetings were called and it was found that the problem lay with the air conditioning system, not the engine cooling system. For interim relief, Sunwin and Volvo were asked to install locally manufactured parts in the buses.
PMA officials said three types of air-conditioning units were imported from China on June 13. These would be installed in Metro Buses to test which one worked best. They said the recent drop in temperature, however, was not ideal for testing these parts.
As many as 19 new buses that were too be imported in the last week of June, would now arrive by the end of July. The delay occurred after the PMA instructed Sunwin and Volvo to make the necessary alterations to the buses.
PMA Public Relations Officer Amir Masood said that initially when these buses were imported, Volvo and Sunwin were told that the buses must be able to operate in temperatures approaching 51 C.
After the buses developed the problem, these companies were now being fined. He said the companies had a few options to deal with the problem. The import of new buses, said Masood, had been delayed due to shipping issues.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2013.