Buses, Namma Metro to resume services after 55 days
BMRCL to run trains during the peak hours; BMTC extends validity of monthly passes issued in April; KSRTC to operate 3,000 buses
After a gap of 55 days, the road transport corporations and Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. are set to resume public transport services. On Sunday, BMRCL staff sanitised metro coaches and common areas at stations. “Like last year, all protocols to contain the spread of COVID-19 will be followed,” said Shankar A.S., executive director (operations and maintenance), BMRCL.
BMRCL has decided to run trains during the peak hours (7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.) with a frequency of five minutes. Mr. Shankar added that trains will be operated depending on demand (optional cut). In February 2020, prior to the first wave of COVID-19, BMRCL had a ridership of 4.24 lakh people and earned an average of ₹1.19 crore a day. In March 2021, its revenue dropped to ₹35.7 lakh with only 1.44 lakh citizens using Namma Metro services.
BMTC services were also badly hit by the pandemic, its losses further compounded by a 15-day strike in April. In a bid to make it easier for commuters, BMTC has extended the validity of monthly passes it had issued in April.
Commuters who purchased ordinary monthly passes in April can use them to travel till July 8, 2021. Due to a bus strike and the subsequent lockdown, monthly bus- pass holders could not travel in city buses.
BMTC has decided to run 2,000 buses on major traffic routes. In addition to that, 17 Vayu Vajra buses will be operated to Kempegowda International Airport from Majestic and Electronic City. City buses will be operated from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Digital ticketing (QR- code based) system will be provided at all buses.
Resumption of city buses will help daily wage workers and people working in factories. Though the lockdown was partially lifted from June 14, the state government did not give green signal for resumption of public transport. The move was criticized by various citizen groups.
As per the government’s guidelines, bus crew have been directed to restrict passengers to 50% of the seating capacity. Passengers have been advised to wear masks, follow a queue system at bus stops and maintain social distancing norms while boarding buses.
Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), which will operate 3,000 buses initially, has decided not to run local and inter-district services in Mysuru district and Dakshina Kannada. Inter-State services will resume depending on guidelines of neighbouring States and their approval.
According to an official, KSRTC will resume with express services. “We will also operate sleeper and AC buses based on demand. We may operate buses to Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in a couple of days,” the official said.
Last year, after the first wave of pandemic, the KSRTC had introduced inter-State services in a phased manner, but patronage was low. A majority of the AC buses remained off road due to poor demand.
‘Running buses not financially viable’
Private operators remain sceptical of resuming bus services with many saying it’s not financially viable to run buses at 50% occupancy as operational costs are high in the backdrop of the rising price of fuel. Diesel touched ₹93.26 per litre on Sunday.
S. Nataraj Sharma, chairman of the Karnataka State Travel Operators’ Association, expressed unhappiness with the State government for not waiving taxes. “In April, when RTC employees went on strike, private operators stepped in and cooperated with the State government. At the time, we were promised that quarterly taxes would be waived, but that never happened,” he said.
A majority of the bus owners have surrendered permits to the Transport Department to avoid road tax liability. “Buses owners do not have any revenue even to undertake regular maintenance. Buses are parked for months gathering dust. Owners are going through financial distress but the State government doesn’t care,” Mr. Sharma added.