Vyttila—an emerging inter-modal transport hub is home to a second hub—one for hitch hikers.
As dusk falls, stranded commuters try to flag down and sometimes plead with motorists to hitch a ride in their vehicles.
The situation turns grave after 8.30 pm, when there are few city and mofussil buses from Vyttila to the city, Aluva and Cherthala. As a result, many people have no way but to hitch a ride in goods carriers and taxis.
With stakeholders in the transport sector turning a blind eye to the plight of thousands of commuters who cross the busy junction each day, the promise of offering commuters seamless, multi-modal and integrated modes of public transport remains a pipedream. The commissioning of phase one of the Vyttila Mobility Hub was expected to end their woes once and for all. It has not.
The Vyttila Mobility Hub Society and the Regional Transport Authority (RTA) had suggested an alternative—the KSRTC and private buses operating buses at least up to midnight to the city, suburban towns and nearby districts. Over a year has elapsed, but the situation remains as grim as before.
The KSRTC is reluctant to begin night services in Kochi, despite such services in Thiruvananthapuram plying up to 11:30 p.m. and netting a good income.
The Motor Vehicles’ Department and the police are flooded with complaints of private buses curtailing their trips after dusk, in violation of permit rules. Ernakulam Regional Transport Officer B.J. Antony said bus owners sought ‘permit variation’ to reduce the number of trips during early morning and night hours and approached the court when permission was denied.
There were others who approached the State Transport Appellate Tribunal and got a favourable order. Very often, the contentions of bus owners were not countered in right earnest at these forums, he said.
There was some merit in bus owners’ argument that they were finding it tough to get crew who were willing to work after 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. as they would have already put in 12 to 14 hours of work. Mr. Antony said the situation forced many owners to steer the bus on the first and last trips of each day.
“Very often, they too are reluctant and this is a reason for the acute shortage of buses after dusk.”
Introducing another shift would work wonders and also reduce the workload of bus crew, he said.
‘Increase night fares’
Mr. Antony suggested a nominal increase in the fare structure during night hours, so that bus owners and even the KSRTC would come forward to operate night services. The idea was earlier mooted by T.P. Senkumar when he was the agency’s MD. The president of the Ernakulam District Private Bus Operators’ Association K.A. Makkarkunju welcomed the suggestion and hoped that higher returns for a few hours of duty would encourage bus crew to come forward and operate night services.
The beneficiaries include people who arrive at the city late at night or early in the morning in trains and buses, and sales girls who have extended duty hours.