The COVID-19 pandemic dashed the hopes of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) to generate more revenue during festivals, including Ganesh Chaturti and Dasara. With people either staying at home or using private vehicles to travel, ridership during what would otherwise have been peak season remained low. But the tide seems to be turning as Deepavali approaches, with the transport corporation recording an increase in demand for tickets.
KSRTC has decided to operate 1,000 additional buses this festive season. From Bengaluru, buses will be operated to Shivamogga, Hassan, Mangaluru, Belagavi, Vijayapura, Hubballi and other destinations. The additional services will help passengers travelling on November 13 and 14.
“After the outbreak of the pandemic, the number of people travelling in buses has come down drastically even during festivals. However, this time for Deepavali, we are seeing some demand, especially for intra-State travel. Around 150 buses are booked from Bengaluru to Mangaluru, Belagavi, Shivamogga and other destinations,” said a KSRTC official.
However, people are wary of travelling in air-conditioned buses. “There is more demand for non-AC sleeper coach buses while ridership for AC buses remains low,” the official added.
Goa and Vijayawada seem to be popular destinations with a few buses from Bengaluru already booked.
Tamil Nadu remains closed to KSRTC
With demand for inter-State travel picking up, Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) officials are unhappy with Tamil Nadu’s decision to ban services to the State.
In mid-June, the KSRTC had resumed services to neighbouring States beginning with Andhra Pradesh. However, the Tamil Nadu government is yet to give the green signal for resumption of services.
“We are currently operating 70 to 80 bus services from Bengaluru to Attibele check post where people have been asked to alight. Passengers take the TN bus to reach Hosur from where they catch another bus to reach their destination. This is inconveniencing passengers. At least 3,000 people travel every day from Bengaluru to Attibele,” said a KSRTC official.
People have vented their ire on social media.
“We are dropped off at the border and are allowed to travel further in Tamil Nadu buses. When movement of people is allowed, why can’t inter-State services be permitted? There is no logic to this,” said one passenger.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, KSRTC used to operate around 400 buses to Tamil Nadu every day, and during the festive season at least 200 additional buses to meet the demand.
“We do not know why the neighbouring State is delaying approval. While issuing unlock guidelines, the Central government had at least on three occasions asked States to facilitate passenger transportation, but Tamil Nadu is not agreeing. Even the Deputy Chief Minister has written to the neighbouring State, but we are yet to receive a positive response,” the official added.
‘No restriction on private operators’
Tamil Nadu has agreed for special train services from Bengaluru to Chennai, and, according to KSRTC officials, some private operators have received permission to operate services. KSRTC is currently operating buses to Puducherry and several destinations in Kerala via Tamil Nadu. “However, we have been prohibited from allowing passengers to get off en route,” he added.