The double-decker buses were phased out in the city in the early 2000s due to operational and maintenance costs.

An old black-and-white photo showing two double-decker buses in HyderabadPhoto Courtesy: Anuradha Reddy
news Transport Friday, November 13, 2020 - 15:06

Many citizens of the older generation in Hyderabad have memories of joyful rides sitting by the window of a double-decker bus (preferably in the first row), passing by the Hussain Sagar and relishing the view. These memories were refreshed recently when Minister of Information Technology KT Rama Rao (KTR) asked the state Transport Minister about the possibility of reviving these icons of the city.

“It was such a fascinating experience to travel in a double-decker bus then. In the 1950s when Hyderabad city had a lot of lakes, to travel in a double-decker bus was such a joy. I was barely five years old when I started using them, but the memory is so vivid, I used to be fascinated seeing the double-decker buses passing on the city roads. Irrespective of having work or not, I used to go along with our driver and climb those narrow stairs to the top, and preferably sit in the front seat to enjoy the ride,” shares Anuradha Reddy, Convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage’s (INTACH) Hyderabad chapter.

Residents also say they miss seeing the buses on city roads. “I travelled countless times by the double-decker buses. It was not just me, but also my sons...we travelled to Koti, Charminar and Secunderabad. We preferred to sit upstairs as we mostly travelled a long distance and were in no hurry to get down. Later, when they grew up, both my sons travelled in those double-decker buses by themselves and we always enjoyed the experience. We missed the buses when they were withdrawn from use on Hyderabad roads,” says Sanghamitra Malik, a singer from Hyderabad.

Currently, the city of Hyderabad is devoid of double-decker buses. It is also unfortunate that there is not a single piece of them preserved as a memory, as they were all gradually scrapped, according to Telangana State Road Transport Corportation (TSRTC) officials. The buses were phased out from city roads in the early 2000s due to operational and maintenance costs and lack of availability of spare parts, according to a retired senior TSRTC official who worked during the time when the double-deckers were still functional.

The history of double-decker buses in Hyderabad

Double-decker buses were not just a mode of transport but also a part of the city’s heritage. They were originally brought in by the Nizams for better connectivity. In 1946, a set of 30 Albion CX 19 models were brought from England to Hyderabad, according to historian Anuradha Reddy.

Each of these 56-seater buses was dispatched by sea in various parts, and were reassembled in the city by Hyderabad Allwyn Metal Works Limited. Instead of glass, the half-lift windows were fitted with metal jalousies to allow ventilation and provide shade against the sun, according to the Albion CX 19 restoration project. The CX 19 model was a very popular one; they could be found in 23 other places across the globe, including England. Later on, Madras Leyland started making doube-decker buses as well. 

In 1996, there was also a phase when the double-decker buses were converted into ‘one-and-a-half decker-buses’, with pictures of all the city’s tourist attractions printed on it. These would have open rooftops. One-and-a-half-decker buses were inspired by the Bollywood movie Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, shares the retired TSRTC official. In the Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol romantic drama, such buses were shown on London roads. They were also seen in the Telugu movie Bommarillu, starring Siddharth and Genelia.

No plans of revival by TSRTC yet

However, despite their popularity, there seems to be little hope for the revival of these buses anytime soon. When TNM contacted TSRTC officials about revival plans, they said that not a single meeting has been conducted on the ground about reviving the buses. Senior TSRTC officials said that, unfortunately, it is not viable to have them back on the city roads, given the financial condition of the TSRTC.

“People might show enthusiasm for double-decker buses, but operation wise, single decker buses are more profitable for us. The double-decker buses do not give mileage; for one litre, the buses run less than 3 kilometers and it's not easy to get their spare parts, in case of repairs. And the operational and maintenance costs are very high," said a senior TSRTC official, on the condition of anonymity.

He further added, "A double-decker bus needs three people for running, from where do we get additional staff to run the buses? For the very same reasons, they were phased out gradually. And bringing them back is not a viable option for us. Currently, it's highly doubtful whether the city roads are feasible for their running, given the new constructions that have come up. Back then also, these double-decker buses were limited to some routes such as Secunderabad to the zoo and Charminar,” adds the official.

However, when KTR tweeted about his memories with double decker-buses and asked Transport Minister Puvvada Ajay Kumar about the same, the latter said that he would talk to the TSRTC Managing Director on the possibility of restoring them. So far, though, there has been no movement in that direction.