KOCHI: Private bus owners have decided to halt their services in the city for an indefinite period from Friday, until justice is served to the public the taxpayers. Dismayed at the potholed roads, traffic bottleneck and unscientific diversions which in turn lead to additional fuel use and damages, city buses have given up.Private bus operators have submitted a report to the District Collector, based on which a meeting will be scheduled on Wednesday. Regardless, operators are adamant they will not resume services unless their demands are met.
“Private buses are diverted via pocket roads. Detours are aplenty. Primary examples would be the Indira Gandhi Hospital Road at Kadavanthra, the rerouting to St Benedict’s Road at Kacheripady and the Vytilla underpass wherein only cars and two-wheelers are allowed to pass. Private buses which serve the public must travel to Chakkarapparambu, take a U-turn through the bypass to reach the other side of the Vytilla Junction. If a bus has a schedule of five rides per day, it has to travel an additional 40 km. This leads to severe blocks and buses are halted for hours, delaying the schedule. This is our first demand, to allow buses to traverse the Vytilla underpass,” said K B Suneer, district general secretary, Private Bus Owners Association (PBOA).
The second condition is to stop detours. “Buses with an average length of 9-12 metres are rerouted through pocket roads. In such circumstances, other vehicles will be unable to ply along the same road, leading to bottlenecks and accidents. Buses must be allowed to traverse as per their permits. The demolition of the Palarivattom flyover is another nightmare that we’ve to face now,” said Suneer.
He said the commencement of KSRTC services to city destinations from places such as Njarakkal has affected the finances of private buses. “These buses ply on major routes and refuse to take in students. Therefore, private buses end up taking mostly students at the discounted rate,” he said.
The extension of the Kochi Metro from Maharaja’s to Thykoodam might have eased travel for several commuters however, private buses have seen a severe dip in the number of passengers. “Since the roads are potholed and non-motorable, passengers prefer Metro. The third demand is to repair potholed roads and ensure ease in vehicular movement,” Suneer said.
Fall in ridership
Despite the government’s stance on promoting public transportation in the city, statistics prove otherwise. In the past few years, the number of private buses in Ernakulam has dropped to around 580 buses
from 750. “The government has inculcated a sense of hatred among the public when it comes to commutation via buses. Private bus owners have been driven to the edge and 75 of them have surrendered their permits. We have suffered for years and we shall not let the government have its way this time. Officials say the Vytilla underpass road will be destroyed if buses are allowed to ply, but the road is blocked by a few labourers and trade unions who let cars and two-wheelers pass. Unless public transportation is respected and the underpass is opened, we shall not resume services,” said T K Raju, state president, All Kerala Bus operators Forum. Meanwhile, Assistant Traffic Commissioner, East, said that he was unaware about the strike.