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Bengal: Commuters’ woes continue sans private buses; govt assures better services, to look into fare hike demand

People queued up for hours in areas such as Tollygunge, Kamalgazi, Dunlop, and Ultadanga to get on to government buses, which took only as many passengers as its seating capacity. Many had to return home after failing to get on a government bus.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata | Published: June 3, 2020 6:09:52 am
West bengal lockdown restrictions, non-containment areas, public transport, Kolkata news, Indian express news Passengers line up for a government bus in Barasat, North 24 Parganas, on Monday. (Photo: Shashi Ghosh)

For the second straight day since lockdown restrictions were relaxed in non-containment areas, people in Kolkata and other districts were inconvenienced by inadequate public transport services, even as the government decided to form a committee to look into the demand of private bus operators to increase fares.

People queued up for hours in areas such as Tollygunge, Kamalgazi, Dunlop, and Ultadanga to get on to government buses, which took only as many passengers as its seating capacity. Many had to return home after failing to get on a government bus.

During peak hours after work, people waited a long time on the road for vehicles. At crossings such as Gariahat, Esplanade and Rashbehari, commuters expressed anger at not being able to get back home on time. People in other districts also had a harrowing time reaching their destinations.

Responding to this, Transport Minister Suvendu Adhikari assured that more government buses would ply from Wednesday. “The number of private buses have increased today compared to yesterday. From tomorrow, more government buses will be on the roads to plug the deficit. We will ensure that such buses run at 15 minutes intervals on major city thoroughfares,” he added.

The problem has been compounded by the lack of private buses on the road. Most private bus owners have demanded a fare hike if they are not allowed to take more passengers than the seating capacity. While the All Bengal Bus Minibus Samannay Samity has resumed services on some routes, the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates has said it will not be possible to run the buses on current fares. A section of private bus operators has started services with a few buses on some routes in the city and its suburbs on an experimental basis.

Following a memorandum from the mini bus operators and the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates to Transport Minister Suvendu Adhikari and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday, the transport department decided to form a regulatory committee to look into their demand for fare revision.

After submitting the memorandum, the council’s general secretary Tapan Banerjee said, “It was a positive meeting. It has been decided to form a regulatory committee to decide on revised fares. We have placed our demands before the transport minister. Soon private buses will ply on roads and before June 8 everything will become normal.”

In the absence of private buses, state transport undertakings such as the West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC), North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC) and the South Bengal State Transport Corporation (SBSTC) are operating vehicles in the city and the districts.

With suburban trains and metro railway services still suspended, commuters have to depend on buses, autorickshaws and taxis, which are also few and far between.

There are not too many autorickshaws on the road, and the ones operating are charging much higher than the normal rate since there is a two-passenger limit now.

“I have been standing here for two hours, but failed to get on a government bus. How long are we supposed to stand like this? The government must ensure that private buses are available on roads,” said a commuter in Tollygunge.

To meet the demand, the WBTC is running buses, both air conditioned and non-AC vehicles, on at least 40 routes in the city. Ferry services across the Hooghly resumed on nine routes from Monday. The state government has allowed autorickshaws, taxis and ride-hailing services to run their vehicles with the usual capacity from June 3.

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