Flash strike by private buses leaves commuters stranded

At a halt: Private buses operating through Vyttila parked in bulk at the Mobility Hub following a flash strike by operators on Thursday.

At a halt: Private buses operating through Vyttila parked in bulk at the Mobility Hub following a flash strike by operators on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Stir in protest against denial of entry through Vyttila underpass

Thousands of commuters were stranded following a flash strike by a sizeable section of private bus operators conducting services through Vyttila from Thursday noon. The strike was in protest against what they termed as “deliberate denial of entry to private buses through the narrow Vyttila underpass and a stand-off with local residents.”

The strike was called off by evening following talks with District Collector S. Suhas. A decision on allowing entry of buses through the underpass will be taken at a meeting to be convened by Deputy Commissioner of Police G. Poonkuzhali here on Saturday, it is learnt.

The entry of buses and heavy vehicles through the underpass, which is wide enough for just a bus to pass through, has been banned for the past more than three months since the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) dug up the approach road and failed to restore it. This worsened chaos at the entry to the underpass. The demand to resume bus services through the underpass comes in the wake of its entry and exit being relaid using paver blocks.

Following a stand-off with local residents who opposed the entry of buses through the underpass, a good share of them operating from the city to places like Vaikom, Poothotta, Chottanikkara, and Cherthala kept off the road from Thursday noon. Kochi Metro Transport Co-Operative Society (KMTC) president T.J. Raju warned that operators would embark on an indefinite strike if buses were denied entry through the underpass. “Ever since buses were barred entry through the underpass, they have been travelling over 4 km extra per trip, going all the way up to Chalikkavattom to take a U-turn. Apart from wastage of time, this costs an additional expense of ₹500 per bus a day owing to fuel wastage,” he added.

P.S. Shine, councillor representing Vyttila Division in the Kochi Corporation, who led people opposed to passage of buses through the underpass, said the resumption of trips by buses through the underpass would cause chaos on ill-maintained service roads on either side. “Buses, many of them rashly driven, also pose risk to pedestrians and two-wheelers using the narrow underpass. This amounts to denying freedom of movement to those going to the Ponnurunni Temple, schools, and other institutions in the locality. It is extremely unfortunate that busmen removed barricades placed near the service road to prevent entry of heavy vehicles,” he said.

Meanwhile, an office-bearer of a bus operating company took exception to Thursday’s flash strike. “It is quite improper to leave thousands of commuters stranded. We gave instructions to our crew to operate services as usual and to ignore the strike call,” he said.

With most private buses through Vyttila keeping off the road, commuters had to either take the metro up to Thykoodam or rely on KSRTC buses which were packed to capacity.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 12:36:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/flash-strike-by-private-buses-leaves-commuters-stranded/article29791464.ece

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