KSRTC misses the bus as Karnataka rakes in money

Inter-State luxury buses of the Karnataka State RTC parked near the KSRTC bus stand in Kochi on Monday. Photo: K.K.Mustafah

The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) is yet to probe ways to come out of the grave financial crisis that it finds itself in.

Even as it is blaming loss-making services for worsening the crisis, little is being done to provide quality service in routes like Bangalore and Mangalore, which are high in demand. It is noteworthy that the Kerala RTC does not operate even a single AC bus from Ernakulam to Bangalore, while over a dozen AC buses of different makes that ply in the route are keeping the Karnataka RTC’s cash registers ringing. They include buses manufactured by Mercedes Benz and a range of buses from Volvo’s stable.

The Karnataka RTC ferries many times more commuters than the few buses operated by its Kerala counterpart. Apart from Bangalore, the Karnataka RTC also operates over a dozen luxury buses from Ernakulam and most other districts to Mangalore, Mysore and Hassan, adding to its profits.

Over 100 private luxury buses too ferry a few thousand commuters daily in each direction, between the two States. They often double their fare, during festive seasons and weekends. Trains from different parts of the State to the IT hub are packed with capacity and the seats are reserved within hours of the reservation process beginning.

KSRTC is not even trying to keep up pace and is making do with two Express and one Deluxe bus from Ernakulam to Bangalore. None of the buses are equipped with AC and commuters have to endure a not-so comfy ride in narrow seats.

A sole Volvo bus plies to Bangalore from Thiruvananthapuram.

Shaji Korah, who is a franchisee of the Karnataka RTC in Kochi said that the agency charges Rs. 900 for its multi-axle Volvo buses plying in the Ernakulam-Bangalore route.

This is in contrast with anything from Rs. 1200 to Rs. 1600 or even above that is charged by private operators, depending on the demand.

Plans are afoot to introduce newer buses having attached toilets, pantry and LED screens behind each seat, Mr. Korah said.

These pro-active measures have helped the Karnataka agency to become one among the few RTCs in the country to make profits.

While the neighbouring RTC’s buses are zooming across the State, the Kerala RTC’s sole Volvo service to Bangalore is running at a loss. Its General Manager G. Venugopal attributed financial problems for the agency not procuring luxury buses for intra and inter-State operations.

“A Volvo bus costs around Rs. 1 crore, while multi-axle ones cost more. Operation and maintenance are yet another problem. We do not have any plan to purchase them now, but have not totally dropped the idea either.”

He said that the Kerala RTC was the first RTC to operate Volvos, in 2002.

“They boosted our image and the services were well appreciated,” he said.

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Printable version | May 7, 2022 8:48:28 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi//article60032310.ece