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Omnibus travel to cost more from today

V.S. Palaniappan and
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Operators announce 20 to 30 per cent hike in bus fare

: As the summer holiday rush peaks, the omnibus fare has been hiked substantially.

On Wednesday, omnibus operators announced a 20 to 30 per cent hike in bus fare, citing low occupancy ratio and an “ever increasing” operational cost.

The hike comes into effect from Thursday. Consequently the cost of travel from Chennai to Madurai or Coimbatore could go up by Rs 150 in a normal bus, Rs 200 in a semi-sleeper and Rs 250 in sleepers with berth facility and much more for air-conditioned comfort.

“Over the past 15 months, the price of diesel has gone up by Rs. 9, wages have increased by 20 per cent and toll by another 20 per cent,” says Afsal, president, Tamil Nadu Omnibus Owners Association. Besides, insurance premium has shot up by 20 per cent more. “Even if you leave alone the cost of spares such as tyres and batteries, hike is inevitable,” he reasons.

According to private bus operators, occupancy ratio in services is, of late, proving a cause for concern. Patronage and break-even are increasingly becoming seasonal. For break-even, every bus should have 78 per cent occupancy which was only 45 to 55 per cent on most days. “Only during summer and festive seasons the buses are full,” Mr. Afsal says.

Few summer trains

The fare hike has come at a time when the Southern Railway is finding it to difficult operate adequate number of summer special trains. After the introduction of many new trains, coaches are scarce and summer specials are fewer this year. Omnibus operators are banking on it heavily. As seat availability in trains is limited, passengers without confirmed train tickets and those who do not travel by government bus would definitely travel by omnibuses, said an operator.

“The fares are driven by market conditions. During non-seasons, the operators automatically bring down fare to increase occupancy and thereby break-even,” says R. Baskar, president of Coimbatore Omnibus Owners Association, indicating that the hike was only temporary. Meanwhile, consumer activists continue to press for a regulatory mechanism for omnibus fares.

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