The introduction of 50 Thiru-Kochi services in the city by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) two years back, is yet to make a perceptible change in the city’s public transport system.
Their timings often clash with that of low-floor and other KSRTC buses, with the result that different buses under the agency ply as convoys in different routes. “This has affected the optimal utilization of our bus fleet, since passengers board the first or second bus, the others plying with less than a dozen people,” RTC sources said.
There were also complaints of some private buses changing their timings so that they are able to collect passengers before Thiru-Kochi buses reach the stops. These issues apart, the second lot of 100 buses promised for the city is yet to arrive, over a year since the announcement was made. The availability of public transport has further been reduced because soon after the KSRTC launched its 50 Thiru-Kochi city services, 76 private buses surrendered their city permits citing feasibility issues.
Twenty private buses plying to Aluva surrendered their permits, of which eight were in the Aluva-Fort Kochi route alone. But the KSRTC failed to step in with its Thiru-Kochi services in these routes. The allegation was rife that they also progressively curtailed their services in a few city routes and diverted the buses to the suburbs where they earned more income.
The agency’s Ernakulam zonal officer Sebastian Thomas said that eighty more Thiru-Kochi buses will begin service in the city in a few months, once the Thevara bus depot is converted as a hub for city buses. Referring to concerns about inadequate Thiru-Kochi services in the city, he said that around 15 services were withdrawn due to unavailability of drivers.
“Now with drivers and conductors being recruited through the Employment Exchange, all the 70 buses are plying.” As for steps being taken to end buses going as a convoy, Mr. Thomas said that the list of buses plying in different routes is being taken. “Care will be taken to prevent the overlapping of services.”
Of late, the surrendering of permits by private bus operators has come down, thanks mainly to the decision not to re-issue the surrendered permits. The public transport in Kochi might get even worse thanks to a notification issued by the State government in July 2009 putting restrictions on issuing and renewing permits to private bus operators with effect from May, 2006, along nationalised routes. Only the KSRTC and civic agencies like corporations or municipalities will be allowed to operate along such routes. This means that permits issued after the notification will not be renewed on the expiry of their validity of five years. This fall in services will have to be made up by the KSRTC or other government agencies. Interestingly, though the number of city permits to private buses has been limited to 600, the KSRTC can apply for any number of permits.
Source: The Hindu