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More buses off the road

Ninety per cent of the buses and minibuses and over 70 per cent of the taxis would go off the road if fares were not increased immediately, said transport operators on Lakshmi Puja, the day by which the government were to decide on the matter.

According to an estimate, about 3,375 buses (45 per cent) of the 7,500-odd that ply in the city and adjoining areas are already off the road since operators do not want to incur losses by plying them.

“During our last meeting with the chief minister, we had given her a chart detailing the income and expenditure of a bus operator under the existing fare structure. If the government does not increase the fare immediately, we will not have to call a bandh; 90 per cent of the buses will automatically go off the road,” said Tapan Bandopadhayay of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicate, to which over 60 per cent of the city buses are affiliated.

The Lakshmi Puja deadline had been set in that meeting, on October 8.

With the government stalling a fare hike for almost a month and a half, buses are going off the road daily. Transport operators said that buses plying on several routes, such as No. 75 (Diamond Harbour to Esplanade), had dropped sharply since Dashami.

“Only 30 buses out of the 70 that ply on route No. 1 (Bichali Ghat and Mukundapur) are still on the road. The rest have been withdrawn. Similarly, only 25 of the 65 buses on route SD4 (Thakurpukur to Garia) are plying,” said an operator.

Insiders in the transport department said the government was examining the models of determining bus fares in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore.

Taxi operators, too, are ready to go off the road if the fares are not increased. “We have decided to meet on October 31 to discuss our course of action,” said Bimal Guha of the Bengal Taxi Association, about 30,000 of the 35,000 taxis in the city are affiliated. According to an estimate, about 24,000 taxis in the city are plying now but the number will drop to 10,000 if fares are not increased soon.