Commuter woes continue as majority of private buses stay off roads in Bengal

(Eds: Adding more inputs) Kolkata, Jun 8 (PTI) With government, private offices and other establishments reopening as part of 'Unlock-1', people in the city and districts of West Bengal faced problems in reaching their workplaces and returning to homes after work on Monday as a large number of private buses stayed off the roads.

Admitting paucity of public transport on the first day of opening up of the government offices with 70 per cent workforce and other establishments, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that around 5,000 buses were out on the roads on Monday.

She said the unavailability of the suburban train and the metro railway services were also causing hardship to the people.

Banerjee cautioned people not to take a risk by travelling in crowded buses and said that it is better to reach office late than to expose oneself to danger.

She had, earlier, said that staff of the state government offices would not be marked late if they reach beyond the stipulated time.

Returning to home from workplaces in the evening proved to be more difficult for many as afternoon thundershowers in the city forced some of the buses and other public transports going off the roads.

Though the government buses came out in full strength in the morning, less number of private buses on the roads made people waiting for long periods of time to get required transport to reach their offices and then back home after work.

'Around 25 to 30 per cent of 6,000-odd private buses that ply in the city and suburbs during normal times are back on the roads,' Joint Council of Bus Syndicates general secretary Tapan Banerjee said.

He said that private buses, both express and local, are also back on the roads in the districts, but in less number than normal.

The number of private buses is likely to increase in the coming days, he said.

Private bus operators have been demanding a fare hike in order to compensate for losses for carrying passengers up to the seating capacity as per a directive of the West Bengal government.

Transport Minister Suvendu Adhikary held a meeting with private bus operators on Monday and assured of steps regarding issues which are within the ambit of the department, All Bengal Bus Minibus Samannoy Samity (coordination committee) general secretary Rahul Chatterjee said.

Buses of the state transport undertakings - WBTC, NBSTC and SBSTC - were out in optimum number in the city and districts, but these did not prove to be enough with a large number of offices and establishments reopening on Monday.

With suburban trains and the metro railway services not resuming, the burden of public transportation was much more than usual on bus services.

Long queues were witnessed at different places in the city and suburbs with people waiting for a long time to board a bus.

However, auto rickshaws, app-based cabs and metered taxis were also on the roads in higher numbers than the previous days.

In order to avoid public transport woes, many people, who have the means, pooled four-wheelers to reach their destinations or rode two-wheelers.

Some even cycled several kilometres to reach their workplaces in the scorching heat, only to avoid crowded buses.

'I generally take the local train to reach my office at Esplanade from my residence, at Sonarpur in South 24 Parganas, which is about 20 km, but now I am cycling to cover the distance,' one such commuter Ranjit Bakshi said. PTI AMR BDC BDC