Over the past three financial years, the West Bengal government has been consistently reducing the subsidy payouts to the three transport corporations — namely the West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC), South Bengal State Transport Corporation (SBSTC) and North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC). In 2017-18, for instance, the annual subsidy (see table) bill towards these three entities was Rs 830 crore. But this bill has been coming down and in the current financial year, it is expected to fall below the Rs 700 crore level.
The trick was to reduce costs and increase the net incomes of the transport corporations. Narayan Swarup Nigam, the Principal Secretary to the Transport Department, said, “during this economic year the price of diesel increased and the maintenance cost of the buses also increased. Despite that, we are targeting to reduce the subsidy because we are now generating higher incomes”. The government also plans to increase the number of buses. This, in turn, is expected to generate more revenue. In the process, the government plans to recruit at least 750 additional drivers and conductors. “The state Cabinet has already given the green signal for this,” said Nigam.
A key change has been the introduction of electric buses. These reduce the overall bill as an electric bus runs at almost half the cost. As of now, around 80 electric buses are being used in and around Kolkata, and 70 other in Haldia, Asansol and Siliguri.
Another change that reduced costs and boosted incomes was the rationalise the number of workers employed per bus from over 10 to just 3.5 during the tenure of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Another decision that boosted incomes was the use of air-conditioned buses.
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