The hike in diesel price for bulk consumers like the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation has hit the poorer of the travellers hard because they have no option other than the KSRTC buses on some of the trunk routes or even on routes that do not make a profit for other bus operators.
Considering the heavy turnout of travellers on KSRTC buses in cities like Kochi, it is estimated that about a lakh passengers may have been affected by the transport corporation on Tuesday cancelling 108 schedules from the eight depots in Ernakulam district.
Among them will be thousands of low-wage earners and contract employees, who depend on KSRTC services.
They are in trouble with heavy rush on other modes of transport such as train and the rail fare hike that came into effect on Tuesday.
The fare hike has made bus and train charges competitive and people will tend to use the more convenient bus routes for their daily travel, claimed a spokesman for the KSRT Employees’ Association, affiliated to the CITU organisation. Shabu, a worker on contract with a government office in the city, commutes between Cherthala and Edappally daily.
The past two days have been difficult ones for him with the number of KSRTC buses drastically down on the trunk route.
The situation is likely to get worse in the coming days with the transport corporation deciding even to cut down schedules on the routes recommended by MPs and MLAs from the district.
However, trade union leaders are hopeful that the MLAs and MPs will use their influence to prevent cancellation of schedules on routes they have recommended.
It is estimated that KSRTC, which operates 5,560 schedules carries between 45 to 50 lakh travellers on a normal day with the number coming down to an average 35 lakh on Sundays and holidays. The average travellers per schedule is 648.
Kochi city and its suburbs accounts for one of the heavier traveller rates in the State.
Thirukochi buses carry around 1,000 passengers per schedule against the average of 400 in some of the smaller towns in the State.
Long route ordinary bus schedules also claim around 1,000 passengers per schedule.