Calcutta, Aug. 14: Air-conditioned buses between Calcutta and Siliguri have been taken off the roads because of the potholed NH34, affecting at least 500 people every day who rely on the service as an alternative to the usually packed trains.
At least 13 such buses, among them some Volvos, will not run for an indefinite period, which tour operators in Calcutta feared could hit travellers during the Puja rush.
Sources said only five of the 20 non-AC private buses were running. A luxury bus operated by the North Bengal State Transport Corporation was also taken off the road recently.
“We had to suspend the (AC bus) service because the condition of the road will damage the vehicles…. We had been running costly buses such as Volvos,” said general manager Swaraj Ghosh of Jai Dada Travels.
Repairs on the cratered NH34 by the NHAI have halted as the state has not been able to acquire land for four-laning the stretch. The highway connects Calcutta airport to Dalkhola in North Dinajpur. At Dalkhola, the NH34 meets NH31 which leads to Siliguri.
Sources said the 580km potholed stretch up to Dalkhola has damaged the low-floor buses, each of which costs about Rs 1 crore. “Any damage to the engine could require the operators to shell out at least Rs 50,000,” a source said.