Commuters face tough time due to absence of adequate buses on city roads

(Eds: Adds transport minister's quote) Kolkata, Jun 2 (PTI) With most private buses still off the roads, commuters on Tuesday faced a harrowing time in reaching their workplaces on time as government-run buses could not cope with the peak-hour rush.

Many private offices and establishments had opened from Monday but lack of adequate transport facilities continued to hamper the movement of people even on Tuesday.

'Around 400 government buses plied in the city on Tuesday. It will be 800 in a couple of days and from June 8, the number of buses will further go up to over 1,000 in city routes,' Transport minister Suvendu Adhikary said.

The state government had on Saturday extended the lockdown till June 15, but allowed total attendance in micro, small, medium and large industries from June 1.

People faced hardship as they waited for hours for a bus to go to work and return home.

'Government buses are operating, but the number of buses is far from adequate,' said an office-goer waiting to board a bus in Kasba area of south Kolkata for over an hour.

Private vehicles came out in large numbers as also taxis and app cabs causing traffic snarls in several places of the city, including business and trading hubs, which have started functioning normally after an over two-month long hiatus owing to the lockdown.

Adhikay said that taxis, app cabs and autorickshaws will be allowed to carry passengers as per seating capacity.

As per earlier directives, the number of passengers were restricted to two in these vehicles.

The West Bengal government has allowed buses to operate with passengers not more than its seating capacity from June 1, but most private operators chose not to ply their vehicles claiming that it would lead to losses.

A section of private bus operators have started services with lesser number of buses on some routes in the city and suburbs on an experimental basis.

With suburban trains and metro railway services yet to resume operations, people have to depend on buses or autorickshaws which are much less than the requirement, a man on way to office from Baruipur in South 24 Parganas district said.

'I usually take the train, but now have to depend on buses. Waiting for over an hour, but since the seats are already occupied, buses are not picking up passengers,' he said.

Autorickshaws were also fewer in number and those who brought out their vehicles were charging much higher than the normal rates since they can carry only two passengers at a time.

A section of private bus operators have started services with less number of buses on some routes in the city and suburbs on an experimental basis.

While the All Bengal Bus Minibus Samannoy Samity has resumed services on some routes on an experimental basis, the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates said it will not be possible to run buses on current fares as they will incur a huge loss even if they ply with passengers in every seat.

The private bus operators held a meeting with state transport department officials on Tuesday for the formation of a regulatory committee for revising fares.

Joint Council of Bus Syndicates general secretary Tapan Banerjee said that private buses carry 85 per cent passengers in the state with more than 45,000 buses.

At least 6,500 private buses and around 1200 government-run buses operate in the city during normal times.

Ferry services across the river Hooghly resumed services on nine routes from Monday. PTI AMR MM NN NN