The air-conditioned Volvo buses introduced by the Mangalore Division of Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation seem to be evoking good response from commuters.
Four Volvo buses began plying between Mangalore and Manipal on Saturday while two more were added on Monday.
Excitement was writ large on the faces of people getting into a Volvo bus on Monday. K. Raju and M. Vinod of Surathkal said they decided to take the Volvo bus when they left Surathkal on Monday morning. They got into the Volvo bus at the State Bank of India terminus asking, “Will it stop at Surathkal?” They chose to relax in the bus though it was scheduled to depart half an hour later.
Mr. Raju was apparently keen on knowing whether the service would continue and sought an assurance from driver Nandakumar. The latter initially said it could if people patronised it. Later, he assured him that the service would not be discontinued as the people seemed to have already accepted it.
The commuters were happy to pay more for their journey by these Volvo buses. A couple of youths going to Udupi said the Rs. 55 fare from Mangalore in an air-conditioned bus was fine with them. “It is nothing compared to what we spend in restaurants,” said one of them. For Mr. Raju, who used to pay Rs. 9 for a trip from Mangalore to Surathkal, paying Rs. 20 for the same distance by Volvo was acceptable. He said the cost of the bus was about Rs. 70 lakh and one had to pay for the comfortable journey.
An elderly woman, however, said she could not afford to pay so much for a journey to Surathkal.
The people found the low floor of the bus as more comfortable, particularly the elderly. The uniform-clad conductor and drivers were friendly with the commuters. They chatted and answered their questions patiently.
Mr. Nandakumar said, “People of this area have long forgotten what a pleasant journey is. We have to reintroduce it to them.” He appeared to be keen on achieving that, going by the eagerness he showed in conversing with the commuters. “Commuters just have to buy tickets and relax. I woke up three of them as they wanted to get down at Jyothi yesterday,” he said.
The buses are earning profit for the KSRTC already. Four Volvo buses have earned a revenue of Rs. 41,929 on Saturday in the 17 one-way trips and Rs. 56,767 on Sunday in 20 one-way trips (10 round trips), according to Divisional Traffic Officer M.B. Jaishanth. He put the Sunday's operating cost at Rs. 42,000, including the salary of the staff and fuel. By his account, the vehicles made a profit of nearly Rs. 15,000 on the day. The buses have a seating capacity of 40 persons, according to Mr. Nandakumar.