NATPAC study to be ready by January end; fares fixed in 2001 not revised

Ferry passengers in Kerala may soon have to pay more to travel, as the government plans to make the services economically feasible.

The National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC) had done a study on the feasibility of these services which operate mainly in Ernakulam, Alappuzha and Kollam. The agency will hand over a report to the State government by the end of January.

Ferry fares fixed in 2001 have not been revised during the past 11 years, with the result that the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) is unable to augment its fleet and the quality of service.

NATPAC has for the past few years been assessing the operational expenses of buses, autos and taxi cars in Kerala, based on which the fares were frequently revised.

The government dithered on revising ferry fares for fear of electoral setbacks, despite most passengers and their associations expressing their willingness to pay more for prompt and quality services.

A senior NATPAC official associated with the study said that operational expenses of ferries is about 10 times the ticket fare and hence the government wants to re-examine the fares.

Faster transport

Ferry passengers pay very low fares – for example Rs 2.50 to travel from Kochi city to Fort Kochi.

The bus fare in the route is over Rs 14. Apart from the low fares, ferries reach the destination faster than buses (less than 20 minutes by ferry, as compared to over an hour by bus), since they take a diagonal route.

The study will also bring to the fore problems like low fuel efficiency, their relatively slow speed, slack maintenance and the inherent weaknesses in the SWTD’s administration.

The director of SWTD, Shaji B. Nair said that NATPAC officials travelled in the agency’s boats in different routes and collected data for their study.

“Based on the data base, they will hold discussions with us. We are willing to operate more ferries in keeping with the demand, if the government permits us to recruit more employees,” he said.

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