THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The private bus operators have expressed apprehensions over the government’s move to cover the operating loss during the Covid-19 period through a fare hike. They said resuming services will not be viable even if the fare is doubled. “There are several issues to be addressed before resuming the service. Only a few will be operating immediately,” said M B Sathyan, president, Kerala State Private Bus Operators’ Federation (KSPBOF). The federation has convened a meeting on Tuesday to discuss ways to restart services.
Since March 22, as many as 12,000 private buses had become non-operational. If the service starts before June 1, the bus owners will lose insurance cover for not operating the service for 60 consecutive days. The operators are also apprehensive of not getting enough passengers even if the buses are run as a special service. KSRTC had just four passengers for one of its special service trips. To keep social distancing, a 38-seater city service bus is allowed to carry only 19 people..
“We are not going to get even 19 people after the lockdown,” said Lawrence Babu, general secretary, KSPBOF. The federation was about to start an indefinite strike demanding fare revision just before Covid-19 hit the state. The strike on March 11 was called off after the transport minister sought their support in fighting the pandemic and urged them not to trouble students during the examination time.
The government has decided to exempt the bus operators from paying tax during the Covid-19 period. The owners are also eligible for tax exemption for the last 30 days when the buses were not operating. The government has decided to write off the road tax of KSRTC till March 31 next year. But KSPBOF is demanding more support in the form of interest-free loans for maintenance, cancelling student concessions and interest-free moratorium on loan repayment.
Minimum bus charge hiked to 12
T’Puram: The government has increased the minimum bus charge by 50 per cent to I12 to help bus owners operate the trips with half the number of seating capacity. The existing minimum charge is I8. The fare will increase from 70 paise to I1.10 for every kilometre. A 38-seater city bus will be allowed to carry a maximum of 19 passengers to maintain social distancing. No standing passengers will be allowed in the bus. Hence, the bus will be carrying just one-third of its passenger capacity. According to the chief minister, the new rates would be applicable only during the Covid-19 period.