Contract carriages pick up steam in Kerala as KSRTC falters

Contract carriages operating on KSRTC’s routes are called parallel or illegal services, and the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) can issue a penalty.

Published: 13th March 2023 06:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th March 2023 06:16 AM   |  A+A-

Representational image. (Photo | Express Illustrations)

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The number of people hiring contract carriages for daily commutes is on the rise as KSRTC struggles to meet the demand on routes it enjoys a monopoly. As options get limited, people are left with two choices — hire a bus in groups or use personal vehicles.

Contract carriages operating on KSRTC’s routes are called parallel or illegal services, and the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) can issue a penalty. However, the surge in passengers underlines the need for a new system under the government.

Experts in the transport sector have urged the government to regularise private services by issuing special permits to bolster public transport. A state-level meeting of the Contract Carriage Operators Association (CCOA) on March 9 decided to push for a point-to-point permit.

“We are looking for a permit system that could pave the way for a new, eco-friendly travel culture. KSRTC is unable to meet people’s expectation. Why doesn’t the government allow us to be part of public transport? Our entry will ensure people don’t depend on private vehicles and help ease traffic snarls,” said CCOA general secretary S Prasanthan. “At present, passengers are ready to pay any fare for their travel convenience. If the government gives the nod, then the fare and service conditions can be regularised,” he added.

CCOA intends to meet Transport Minister Antony Raju to demand permits for private bus operators. It comes at a time when KSRTC has curtailed some of the services that do not meet its earnings criteria.
Also, as per the vehicle scrappage policy, the state-run carrier needs to disassemble 1,622 old buses by April. A report by MVD found that at least 550 people get affected when a bus is cancelled, and 20 switch to motorcycles.

KSRTC is protective of its permit monopoly and is worried about losing revenue to the parallel service. It has a special wing to take down parallel operators. Still, these services continue to thrive. “KSRTC suffered a loss of `6 lakh every day due to the parallel service in Thiruvananthapuram city alone. The service thrives due to political patronage,” said a KSRTC official.

Experts said KSRTC alone cannot meet people’s demands. “The current demand can be met jointly by KSRTC and private bus operators. The government should give private bus operators maximum incentives to promote public transport,” said B G Sreedevi, the former director of National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC) and former KSRTC board member.

Tough road ahead

16,000 Total contract carriages

KSRTC buses 

4,175 March 2020 (Before Covid)
4,075 January 2023
1,622  KSRTC buses to be scrapped by April

Pvt buses affected by curtailing long-distance permit: 240

India Matters


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