Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram together are likely to get around 150 more AC and non-AC low floor buses under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme.
This is under the extended phase one of the scheme, in which 10,000 more such buses will be given to cities in various States.
“Since water transport is an important commuting mode in Kochi, the city is expected to get a few passenger ferries under the scheme’s phase two. We took up the matter with the Union Urban Development Ministry. A clear picture on the number of buses and boats allotted under the JNNURM scheme will emerge in a few weeks’ time,” said Elias George, Additional Chief Secretary, Transport. It is yet to be decided who will operate the boats.
The boats are expected to be faster and comfortable than those operated now by State Water Transport Department (SWTD). Goshree Islands Development Authority (GIDA) and Kochi Corporation too are gearing up to operate boats.
A senior KSRTC official said the agency had submitted a detailed scheme to the Urban Ministry, highlighting the passenger patronage of the existing AC and non-AC buses.
While the passenger patronage of low-floor buses in the city keeps fluctuating, those operating between districts and from Kochi city to suburban towns are making profits.
The Controlling Inspector of JNNURM buses in Kochi, K. H. Abdul Aziz, said a Central team did a survey of the 50 AC and 120 non-AC buses that operate in Kochi, a fortnight ago. “Of the 50 AC buses, we operate 46 buses on an average, each day.”
On many buses developing problems with their air conditioners, he said that this was mostly because they operate without rest for long hours. Passengers want the AC at full blast, especially during summer. A special team is in charge of the upkeep of the AC fleet, while our regular workshop tends to the non-AC ones.
Mr Aziz said buses that operate in the Ernakulam-Thiruvananthapuram route are netting a daily collection of over Rs 30,000, while the one to Kottayam has a collection of Rs 25,000. “The operational expense in long-distance routes is lesser since there is considerably less wear and tear. While AC buses in the city have an average mileage of just above 2 litres per km, those that operate between districts have 25 per cent more fuel efficiency (around 2.5 km per litre of diesel).”
There are complaints that the RTC is not marketing its low-floor services in the two cities. Neither has a dedicated public-enquiry system been put in place, despite each AC bus costing upwards of Rs 85 lakh.