Seven gearless Volvo buses will begin service in Kochi from November 1, despite difference of opinion between the KSRTC and the Corporation of Cochin over fixing the routes, and the constitution of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to manage the proposed 170 low-floor, hi-tech bus fleet in Kochi.
Aimed at reducing the number of cars and two-wheelers on the roads, Thiruvananthapuram will get 150 high-tech buses, while Kochi will get 170 of them and an additional 30 mini-buses. While the KSRTC has less dissonance with the Corporation of Thiruvananthapuram, the Kochi Corporation is insisting on having an equal say in managing the bus fleet.
Though last week’s meeting of different stakeholders was able to iron out many differences of opinion, higher-ups in the Kochi Corporation have differing views about finalising the bus routes.
The KSRTC had proposed over a dozen routes for the buses, passing through the NH bypass and other arterial roads. While the KSRTC wants them through “routes that are technically and economically viable”, the corporation wants the services through “wide roads which are not networked by public transport”.
“The next Council meeting will decide on the routes, after taking councillors into confidence,” said Mayor Mercy Williams. Both the agencies agree that the routes can be finalised after assessing the passenger patronage in the initial few months.
They also agree on the urgent need to de-congest the city, by providing a fast, economical and comfortable mode of transport to the suburbs. “These hi-tech buses will bring in an amount of dynamism in the city. We will provide all help in identifying parking bays for the buses and also introduce multi-tier parking projects in different parts of the city for car owners to park their vehicles and shift to the new public-transport system,” Ms Williams said.
While acknowledging that that the KSRTC would be the implementing agency, the corporation has demanded a stake in managing the bus fleet and hence suggested the formation of an SPV having representatives from the RTC, the corporation and the Local Self Government Department. It also demanded the appointment of a special officer or a management expert to coordinate with stakeholders in the SPV.
But the KSRTC says that hi-tech bus services in most metros are managed by the respective transport corporations, and not by SPVs. The KSRTC’s managing director, T. P. Senkumar, said that the RTC would constitute a separate body to manage the 350-bus fleet in the two cities. “A meeting will soon be held in New Delhi to assess whether there is any need for an SPV.” he said.