Not in favour of govt dole, fare hike only way forward, say pvt bus operators in Bengal

Kolkata, Jun 28 (PTI) Transportation woes in the city and other parts of Bengal are likely to continue, with private bus operators on Sunday demanding an immediate fare hike to cope with COVID 19-related curbs and rising fuel prices, asserting that maintaining services would be difficult under the current circumstances.

Joint Council of Bus Syndicates, which held a meeting of its members on Sunday, said it was not in favour of accepting any dole from the state government, insisting that a fare hike is the only way forward.

'Given the restriction imposed, allowing passengers only up to seating capacity, and the rise in fuel prices, owners are finding it difficult to run their services,' JCBS general secretary Tapan Banerjee said.

The government's subsidy proposal for only a section of bus owners will create division, and the association has decided not to accept it, he said.

'The only permanent solution can be a hike in fares, taking into account every aspect, including restrictions on the number of passengers and spike in fuel prices,' Banerjee said after the meeting.

All Bengal Bus Minibus Sammanoy Samity (coordination committee) general secretary Rahul Chatterjee said some 27,000 private buses ply the roads of the state, under normal circumstances.

'The government's offer to pay a monthly dole of Rs 15,000 each to 6,000 private buses only for three months will only lead to more confusion,' Chatterjee said.

The committee has not issued any instruction for suspending services, but given the losses faced every day, owners, on their own, have been withdrawing their vehicles.

Commuters, meanwhile, have been encountering hassles owing to lack of public transport since the beginning of the Unlock-1 on June 8, when most government and private offices and establishments, along with shopping malls, reopened.

With suburban trains and Metro Railway yet to resume services, people have been largely dependent on buses for their daily commute, with some having to wait for at least an hour on average to find a vehicle to reach their destinations.