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Seven premium buses flagged off along two routes in district

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DRAWING ATTENTION: Crowds gather around KSRTC’s Volvo buses that were flagged off in the city on Monday.—
DRAWING ATTENTION: Crowds gather around KSRTC’s Volvo buses that were flagged off in the city on Monday.—

Staff Reporter

To begin services on Wednesday; minimum fare Rs.10

KOCHI: Seven of the 50 low-floor automatic Volvo buses earmarked for Kochi under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme were flagged off at Vytilla Junction on Monday by the Union Minister of State for Agriculture, K. V. Thomas.

Three buses would conduct seven daily trips in the Fort Kochi-NH bypass-International Airport route, while the other four buses would ply along the Aroor-NH bypass-Angamaly route, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., beginning Wednesday. The minimum fare is Rs 10, with an additional Rs 1.50 per km.

Speaking at the function, Mr. Thomas expressed concern at Kerala not making optimal use of JNNURM funds. “The State can gain much since six Union Ministers and many more top officials from the State occupy crucial positions at the Centre. They can do much to hasten the Kochi metro-rail and other urban-development projects.”

The KSRTC and the Kochi Corporation must through proper cooperation ensure that the Volvo buses give a new direction to public transport in the city. The 200 premium buses that would be introduced in Kochi under the scheme can link prominent tourist and pilgrim centres like Fort Kochi, Cherai, Chottanikkara and Malayatoor, Mr. Thomas said. He called upon the KSRTC to utilize vast areas of prime land around bus stands to garner revenue.

Prior to flagging off the premium-bus services, Transport Minister Jose Thettayil called upon members of the public to move over to public transport and vehicle-pooling, so that there is less number of cars and two-wheelers on city roads, less fuel consumption and thereby less pollution.

“While the Kochi Corporation can suggest routes for the new premium buses, the KSRTC has the technical expertise to finalise the routes, based on their feasibility. The running cost of Volvo buses operating in Thiruvananthapuram is Rs 48 per km, and the RTC is probing ways to ensure that the services do not incur loss. These buses offer air-conditioned comfort, while charging a fraction of the fare charged by autorickshaw and taxi cars,” he said. Mr Thettayil added that the bus services would be extended further to the suburbs if they incur loss in the present routes.

“Civic agencies must take the lead in opening pay-and-park centres in different parts of the city. Passenger ferry services through Kochi’s innumerable waterways would provide commuters with a fast and economic mode of public transport, reducing congestion on the roads.” He called upon Mr. K. V. Thomas to set apart some funds under the JNNURM scheme to develop an efficient passenger-ferry service in Kochi.

Senior KSRTC officials were conspicuous by their absence at the function. The conflict between the agency and the Kochi Corporation over fixing routes was cited as the reason for the delay in introducing the Volvo bus service in the city. In her presidential address, Mayor Mercy Williams said that the city needs newer roads, flyovers, overbridges and wider junctions. The JNNURM funds can be used for the purpose. She called upon people to utilize the premium bus services so that the next lot of buses can be introduced in the city.

The KSRTC’s regional manager G. Pradeep was among the other speakers.

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