State-run buses hit the streets in Bengal as COVID curbs ease, pvt ones seek fare hike

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Kolkata, Jul 1 (PTI) Public road transport services resumed in West Bengal on Thursday, with the state government having relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, but private buses were few and far between as owners refused to ply them, citing high fuel prices and non-revision of fares as reasons.

State-run buses were back on the roads with West Bengal Transport Corporation, south and north Bengal state transport corporations running their full fleet, but these proved to be inadequate during the peak hours.

An official of the transport department said the three corporations ran approximately 5,000 buses together.

Tapan Banerjee, the general secretary of Joint Council of Bus Syndicates, one of the organisations representing the owners of private buses, said, 'We have been demanding an increase in fares since 2020, but the government has not taken any decision yet. We are unable to run our fleet at the moment as that will lead to huge losses.' He claimed that their private vehicles ferry around 85 per cent of all bus passengers in the state.

Commuters were seen boarding jam-packed buses during the day to reach their destinations, with zero regard for COVID-19 norms.

The state government has ordered that buses, taxis and auto rickshaws can ply with 50 per cent occupancy from July 1.

Local and metro rail services continue to remain suspended.

'There are not many buses, so we have no option but to travel without maintaining any physical distance,' said Samarjit Das, who alighted a crowded vehicle in Esplanade.

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