Passengers were awestruck by the low-floor air-conditioned Volvo buses, procured under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, that commenced service in the State capital on Wednesday.
The eight orange-coloured ergonomically designed buses that started service from 6 a.m. were objects of curiosity rather than a mode of transport.
At the stops, the young and the old jostled to enter the bus and see the passenger-friendly facilities.
Passengers were seen taking a minimum fare ticket of Rs.10 (for five km) to experience the facilities.
The comfortable seating, wide automatic doors in the middle for entry, exit at the front, advanced passenger information system and facilities for the physically challenged came in for praise. The stop switches at the posts in the bus for the commuters to request for halt and the LCD destination boards in Malayalam and English drew appreciation.
The first service from East Fort via Technopark to Kaniyapuram had just three commuters. Although many boarded the bus once it arrived at the bus bay, almost all stepped out on learning that the fare from East fort to Kaniyapuram was Rs.38.
The fare is cheap compared to other personalised modes of transport. The fare from Kowdiar and Sasthamangalam to East Fort is Rs.14. KSRTC officials say the services will stabilise and those travelling in private cars and autorickshaws will switch over to the new service in the days ahead.
The service met with unexpected opposition at the airport.
Taxi drivers’ protest
Taxi drivers operating at the airport objected to the entry of the bus on the airport premises saying that it will hit their prospects. Around 25 taxi drivers were arrested by the police.
A top KSRTC official said the low-floor buses were aimed at connecting the Central railway station, airport, Technopark and tourist places like Shanghumughom and Kovalam.
The KSRTC had approached the Airports Authority of India and got the permission for the entry of the buses on the airport premises.
“We will not withdraw the buses from the airport as they are intended to cater to such places. The AAI had even allocated a parking slot at the airport for the buses. The service will touch the international and domestic terminals,” the official said.
The buses, for the time being, will be parked at the city bus depot.
The KSRTC will have to look for alternative arrangements once the other 22 air-conditioned low-floor buses and the 120 semi- low-floor buses arrive.
The objectives of introducing the service will be achieved only if parking lots are created along the originating points and routes through which the buses traverse the city, Chairman and Managing Director of the KSRTC, T.P. Senkumar said.