Bus fare reduction a mere eyewash?

Anil Kumar Sastry

Corporations fail to pass on savings due to diesel price cut to passengers

BANGALORE: The fare reduction by the State road transport corporations, effective from February 5, appears to be an eyewash: the substantial savings that the corporations will make from the recent diesel price cut has not been passed on to the hard-pressed passenger. Indeed, the move may not effect any shift of passenger traffic from private to public transport.

Diesel price had touched Rs. 39.76 a litre in June 2008 prompting the corporations to steeply increase the fares on August 29, 2008. However, diesel price has now come down to Rs. 34.80, a reduction of Rs. 4.96.With this, the transport corporations stand to save over Rs. 200 crore, wiping out the Rs. 166 crore loss projected by them to support increase in fares at that time.

The fare hike was 10 per cent for ordinary and 12 per cent for other services of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), North West Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC) and North East Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (NEKRTC) while it was 9 per cent for the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) services.

When it came to reducing fares on January 31, KSRTC, NWKRTC and NEKRTC reduced fares by 6.7 per cent for mofussil services and just 2.7 per cent for express services, without even touching premium services. BMTC too, reduced marginally fares for ordinary services while substantially reducing fares for Suvarna and Vajra, for whom there are few takers.

While seeking fare revision last August, these corporations had projected annual losses of Rs. 70 crore, Rs. 33 crore, Rs. 18 crore and Rs. 45 crore respectively owing to diesel price hike.

The diesel price cut, however, saves lakhs of rupees every day for them. For example, KSRTC consumes nearly 4.5 lakh litres of diesel and BMTC 2.5 lakh litres of diesel a day, saving nearly Rs. 80 crore and Rs. 45 crore a year respectively.

The current diesel price of Rs. 34.8 a litre is still below the price that prevailed before the June 2006 fare hike . When diesel price touched Rs. 37.51 from Rs. 35.26, the corporations increased the fares on June 11, 2006.

Rajahamsa and Airavata, the two premium services of KSRTC, NWKRTC and NEKRTC, which run almost full, are patronised by middle-class travellers. Subbu Krishna, a private firm employee, expressed unhappiness that the fares of these services were not reduced. Even for express services, the reduction is nominal with a maximum of Rs. 12 (Bangalore-Bidar) to a minimum of Re 1 (Bangalore-Mandya). During the August 29 fare increase, the minimum increase was Rs. 6 for Mandya and Rs. 50 for Bidar.

On the other hand, BMTC had no option but to reduce the fares of Suvarna and Vajra as few people use them because of exorbitant fares. By reducing their fares, BMTC only ensured that the investment on these expensive coaches did not go waste, said Ramalingappa, a businessman. If at all BMTC was concerned about the ordinary commuter it should have substantially reduced fares of Parisara Vahinis, which at present is the highest in the country, he noted.

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