The barrage of complaints from bus passengers, NGOs and residents’ associations against slack rule enforcement by the Motor Vehicles’ Department (MVD) and traffic police, has prompted law enforcers to begin cracking the whip against rule violations by private buses.
To begin with, the MVD’s enforcement squads will monitor buses plying the Vyttila-Vyttila and Eroor-Eroor circular routes. The maximum number of complaints received is against private bus operators and crew plying these routes.
“Most private buses in the Vyttila-Vyttila circular route skip trips and do not abide by the time-schedule. This leaves passengers along the NH Bypass and in the Vyttila-Thammam-Palarivattom stretch in the lurch. The law enforcers at best are scarecrows and are doing nothing to hold them accountable,” said T.N. Pratapan, general convenor of the Janakeeya Anweshana Samity, an NGO approved by Kerala Legal Services Authority.
Of the 40 private buses in the circular route, 20 ply clockwise and 20 anti-clock wise. A few of them ply through Thammanam. Still, there is shortage of buses that operate through the bypass and Thammanam.
“This is because many buses cancel their trips unilaterally. The situation turns grave after 7:30 p.m., when most buses in the route stop plying despite their permits stipulating that they must operate up to 10 p.m. The rule enforcers either turn a blind eye to this or plead helplessness,” he said.
The bus shortage is so acute that commuters are forced to travel on the footboard of buses during peak hours.
Mr. Pratapan spoke of how time-punching cabins too have become ineffective in ensuring prompt bus service. On holidays and Sundays, hardly 50 per cent of the fleet operates, despite all-round demand to augment public transport.
The situation has not changed despite the Samity and others taking up the issue repeatedly at meetings of the District Administration and Residents Associations for Timely Solutions (DART) and Police-Residents’ Associations Initiative in District Ernakulam (PRIDE). “It is sad that the circular buses operate as per a time schedule charted out by them, and not as per the permit issued by the RTO,” Mr Pratapan said.
The KSRTC has not stepped in to redress commuters’ grievances. It is yet to begin regular services in the sector, despite residential areas cropping up in eastern parts of the NH 47 Bypass.
The KSRTC has also not paid heed to the widespread demand to introduce regular bus services to the city from the Vyttila Mobility Hub.
Ernakulam Regional Transport Officer B. J. Antony said the MVD would suspend or even cancel the permits of rule violators.
“Circular buses must ply along the NH Bypass every three minutes, to cater to the demand from commuters. This can be done if each of the buses in the route abides by the time-schedule.
"There are buses which take an hour and 10 minutes for every trip, whereas the time permitted is 55 minutes. On its part, the KSRTC must take steps to ensure that its buses operate on time and stop at bus stops.”
Bus owners’ version
The Private Bus Owners’ Association-Vyttila, has its own justifications for its buses not running on time. “Our operating time has increased by 10 minutes per trip as buses have been re-routed through the Vyttila Hub. Thus, buses which plied 11 to 12 trips daily are often able to ply only 10 trips. Moreover, bus crew are reluctant to operate beyond a certain time at night,” said its president Nissar Karukapadath. The MVD had not issued fresh timings, despite the additional distance of about 2 km following re-routing through the hub. Currently, there was a circular bus operating every six minutes through the bypass and Thammanam, he said.
Mr. Pratapan said buses did not operate even at this frequency, because of wanton trip cancellations and the ‘deliberate’ slow pace of circular buses.