Survey: how has COVID-19 impacted bus operations in India?

Posted: 27 May 2020 |

The International Association of Public Transport (UITP) and the World Bank have surveyed Indian bus operators in a bid to better understand how operations have been impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Survey: how has COVID-19 impacted bus operations in India?

The Indian government has imposed a lockdown since 25 March 2020 to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak – with public transport services limited to essential services only. The ban on operations during lockdown has caused significant financial losses to operators and it is predicted that when services resume, demand may not return to pre-lockdown levels.

In a bid to better understand the impacts, the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) and the World Bank have surveyed bus operators across India as part of the new Statistics Brief, “Impact of COVID-19 on Indian Bus Operators,” which aims to provide an overview on the specific challenges faced by the sector and suggest the practical solutions needed to address them. As metros faced closure in India during the lockdown, the bus sector was leveraged to provide travel options for key workers.

Responses were received from 27 bus operators covering government, private, urban and inter-city operations. The operators covered include 14 State Transport Undertakings (STUs), two government supported urban bus contracting authorities and 11 private operators. 70 per cent of these operators were involved in urban buses, 56 per cent in intercity bus service provision and 52 per cent in rural buses.


  • One-two per cent of services are operational overall
  • 67 per cent of operators are only operating special services for medical and essential personnel in response to government requests
  • 90 per cent reduction in ridership and 81 per cent of operators have no ridership at all.

The survey was designed in a bid to capture the key challenges which operators are likely to face during the resumption of services. These challenges were segregated into four key areas:

  • Operational and service delivery
  • Financial management
    Crew management related
  • Fleet management related.

“The bus sector is an important part of the public transport landscape in India and the changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic means we must observe what has happened, and will happen going forward. The objective of the survey was to derive insights that can inform ministries, state governments and public transport agencies in developing a post-COVID response strategy that best addresses their needs,” said Rupa Nandy, Head of UITP India.

Looking ahead 

More than 60 per cent operator representatives said that they believed that both demand and service levels will not be more than 50 per cent of a pre-COVID situation. While 12 per cent of the operators believed that the service levels will resume to 75-100 per cent, only four per cent reportedly believed that that the demand will return to what it was before.

78 per cent stated that they believe it will take more than six months from the end of lockdown for the demand levels for buses to reach pre-COVID levels.