The government is gearing up to set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for operating and managing the buses procured with assistance from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) even as employees of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) have opposed the move. 

Five trade unions, including the Congress-backed Transport Democratic Front and the CITU-affiliated Kerala State Transport Employees Association, have opposed the move to create a special business unit within the KSRTC for operating and managing the JNNURM buses.

The trade union leaders had told Minister for Transport Aryadan Mohammed at a meeting here on Monday that they were against the move as they feared it would lead to the bifurcation of the transport utility. Official sources told The Hindu that the Minister had told the leaders that the views would be communicated to the Cabinet.

Setting up of the SPV is the main condition put forward to the Local Self-Government Department by the Central Sanctioning and Monitoring Committee (CSMC) on Urban Infrastructure and Governance to get the funds from the JNNURM.

With this, the government had no option left but to set up an SPV to get the first tranche of funds for purchasing 400 buses sanctioned to the State in September under the JNNURM extended scheme.

States which did not set up SPV as directed by the JNNURM opted for formation of city specific transport undertakings. Kerala also preferred this option and a special bus unit (SBU) under the KSRTC was mooted in the Detailed Project Report submitted in August this year.

With opposition from the KSRTC employees, the State will have to set up SPV on the lines of the Indore model for bus operations. Cities such as Bhopal, Jabalpur, Ujjain, and Raipur have set up city specific SPVs for operating bus services.

The CSMC had also asked the State to notify the ‘planning area’ as the buses to be procured were to be operated to major towns and cities of 12 districts in the State that had been grouped under five clusters.

Official sources said confusion prevailed on whether a single SPV was needed for the State or separate SPVs were needed for the five clusters proposed. It has more or less become certain that a separate SPV will be set up for Kochi and all modes of transport will be integrated.

Compared to the scheme launched in 2008, Intelligent Transport System, upgrade of depots and installation of central control room will now form part of the funding. The mission will provide 80 per cent of the cost and the State will have to bear the rest. 

As the 400 new JNNURM buses will have to be operated and managed by the SPV, the issues of parking the buses, entry into bus depots, and filling of high speed diesel will also have to be sorted out.  

At present, the KSRTC is managing and operating 146 buses plying in Thiruvananthapuram and 167 in Kochi that have been purchased under the JNNURM scheme. The two cities were among the 61 JNNURM cities that had benefited from the one-time Central assistance of Rs.4,700 crore for purchase of buses.