The move to purchase another 10,000 buses under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and enhanced support in the 12th Five Year Plan will give an impetus to the bus transport system in the State.
The decision to purchase the buses was announced in the Union budget as the 14,524 buses already on the road had made a big contribution to the urban transport system. A sum of Rs.14,873 crore has been allocated in the budget and a significant portion is to support the purchase of 10,000 buses.
Official sources told The Hindu that the announcement should be seen against the backdrop of the move to launch a scheme for providing bus-based public transport services in the rural areas of 612 districts. The scheme has been mooted by the Planning Commission’s Working Group on Road Transport for the 12th Five Year Plan. As hilly States are to be benefited from 10,000 buses, Kerala would also be a beneficiary.
An indicative distribution of buses amongst the State and the Union Territories at the rate of 600 buses per one crore of rural population with a minimum 100 buses to each State has also been worked out by the Sub-Group on State Road Transport Undertakings formed by the Working Group.
Based on the 17,445,506 rural population, Kerala will get 1,046 buses for the 14 districts out of the 50,854 buses worked out for 593 districts.
The total cost for procurement of buses at Rs.18 lakh per bus will be Rs.188.28 crore and the share of the Union government will be Rs.150.60 crore. Sources said a Special Purpose Vehicle had been mooted for the operation of the buses, management, and monitoring.
Among the 61 JNNURM cities that had benefited from the one-time Central assistance of Rs.4,700 crore for purchase of buses, Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi had figured and 308 buses are operational in these two cities.
As many as 146 buses, including 26 air-conditioned buses, are plying in Thiruvananthapuram and 167, including 48 air-conditioned buses, in Kochi. The low-floor air-conditioned buses launched under the JNNURM are a big hit in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi.
A top transport official said the detailed project report has to be prepared for seeking the Central assistance for purchase of 1,000 buses. “The buses will help extend the services from the urban areas to rural areas. As there is no urban rural divide, the entire State will be covered once the new buses are launched. The KSRTC need not have to go for other buses,” he added.
Public Transport experts say the move is encouraging as bus transport makes the most optimum use of the available road space and fossil fuel by transporting the maximum number of people per unit of road space.
On an average, a car consumes nearly six times more energy than an average bus, while two-wheelers consume about 2.5 times and three-wheelers consume 4.7 times more energy in terms of per passenger km.