Though the Kochi Corporation and the KSRTC are vying with each other for controlling the 166 low-floor buses purchased under the JNNURM scheme, neither agency is serious about ensuring optimal utility of the costly fleet.
Two years after the 48 AC and 118 non-AC services were launched in Kochi, the KSRTC is yet to streamline the operation of the buses. Groups of buses often ply as a bunch along the same route. While the buses that ply early get passengers, the others are almost empty.
While admitting that there are anomalies in their operation, a KSRTC official said that the timings of low-floor buses often clash with that of Thirukochi and other buses operated by the agency.
“Steps are being taken to overcome the overlapping of services, since this is resulting in low passenger patronage, affecting the collection per bus. The collection of most city services is less than the desired earnings of Rs. 53 per km. Those plying to suburban towns and other districts are raking in better income.”
The RTC is planning to take action against errant crew if there are complaints of buses skipping stops. There are complaints of non-AC buses not stopping at bus stops, even on request. Complaints against the crew of AC buses are less, probably because they are trained in behaving courteously to passengers.
The KSRTC admits that the non-AC buses are more prone to break downs. There are also complaints that their interiors and exteriors are not properly cleaned. This is one reason for the buses enjoying low passenger patronage.
Though AC buses can be fitted with Global Positioning Systems so that passengers can know the exact location of each bus, the facility has not been activated.
On its part the Kochi Corporation has not readied infrastructure such as well-kept bus stops and footpaths.
Most of the existing stops and footpaths are in a dilapidated condition. Neither have parking lots been made available near major bus stops. These facilities would have increased the patronage of low-floor and other buses.
Though major cities have a unified metropolitan transport authority that oversees all transportation modes, Kochi does not have one.
As a result, the KSRTC and Kochi Corporation have different perceptions about bus routes.