Kerala’s transport policy remains elusive despite steep fall in number of buses

The Motor Vehicle department (MVD) and the Kerala Government are not on the same page over the draft transport policy which mentioned, among others, the need to increase the number of public transport buses and seamlessly integrate them with other modes of commute.

The draft policy was readied on the basis of a survey-cum-study conducted by the department in the wake of the 2019 amendment to the Central Motor Vehicles Act. This had necessitated that State governments ready their respective transport policy.

Admitting that such a policy is overdue for Kerala, sources in the department said the number of vehicles in the State doubling during the past decade to touch over 1 crore is a reason for alarm. A bulk of them were cars and two-wheelers whose purchase saw a steep increase as the number of public transport buses fell from around 35,000 over a decade ago to the current figure of about 15,000.

As per data released by Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in 2021, Kerala had 0.50 bus per 1,000 people as compared to the national average of 1.33. MVD officials said the number of public transport buses would have further reduced by now due to the steep increase in fuel prices and operating expenses.

“This is apart from the fact that just about half the fleet of KSRTC buses is operating regular services. Still, a transport policy remains elusive, despite assurances in the Governor’s consecutive policy addresses before the State Legislative Assembly,” they added.

A high-ranking KSRTC official said efforts are under way to increase to 6,000 the total the number of buses operated directly by the agency or through KSRTC-SWIFT, its subsidiary. Emphasis will also be given to tracking the buses to streamline their service.

O.P. Agarwal, the architect of the National Urban Transport Policy and an expert member of the Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority (KMTA), said urban areas need at least 500 buses per million people based on a rule of thumb.

“Globally and even in New Delhi, there is greater involvement of the private sector in operating buses since this ensures better fleet management. But a government agency must be vested with regulating their routes, timings and so on. This will ensure that buses operate even in non-profit routes for common good. The government can extend subsidy to operate in such routes, while charging a premium fee on operators in profit-making routes. Else, routes can be so clubbed together that buses operate through both types of routes,” said Mr. Agarwal.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2022 5:39:23 am |