Various regulations, low fares, escalation in cost, and difficulty in getting drivers are affecting the operation of mini bus service in the city, if the Coimbatore District Mini-bus Owners Association is to be believed.
Owners say they are given permits to operate in “unviable sectors” with a fare fixed in 1998.
The minimum fare fixed then was Rs. 2. The diesel prices had gone up manifold over the last 14 years.
Of the 7,500-odd permits given for minibuses, already closer to 3,000 had been surrendered, says A. Chelladurai, president of the association.
Of the remaining, hardly 60 per cent buses are operated.
In Coimbatore, only 244 of the 280 permits have takers, he added. Many a time, officials and crew of State Transport Corporation object to mini buses entering bus stands. Officials say these buses had no right to enter the bus stands.
Mini bus operators say permits are given for 20km routes with the condition that they should not operate the service for more than 4km within corporation limits.
If a bus stand falls within the 4-km limit why should not they enter it, they ask.
The TNSTC crew, however, say mini buses resort to unethical practices resulting in the corporation losing revenue. Hence was the objection to these buses entering the bus stands.
Last week the corporation bus crew and those of mini buses had a fight at Ukkadam bus stand over ‘parking rights.’
Keeping mini buses off the bus stands will affect commuters, says Mr. Chelladurai. A passenger will have to run from one place to another to catch a bus, he adds.
Another problem faced by mini bus operators are getting drivers. The minimum educational qualification for getting a heavy licence is a pass in Standard VIII. Mr. Chelladurai says that those who have passed Standard VIII will prefer better jobs these days.
This force owners to employ persons with light motor vehicle licence as drivers.
The government had removed the medium motor vehicle category adding to the woes, he says.
The association wants the Centre to amend the Act suitably.
The criterion should be save driving skills and not educational qualification, said Mr. Chelladurai.
Transport Department officials say employing those with light motor vehicle licence as drivers of mini buses is fraught with danger.
To maintain running time and to compete with TNSTC buses, these drivers tend to indulge in rash and negligent driving, the officials say.