• Directive: Government buses must ply till 11.30pm
• Reality: Few or no buses after 10pm
Transport minister Madan Mitra on Wednesday asked state transport undertakings to ensure that government buses are available till 11.30pm, a directive officials say is impossible to implement with the present fleet.
Around 600 government buses, operated by three transport undertakings, ply on the city roads. Senior transport officials said the few buses on the road are in a bad shape.
Employees at state transport depots also rued the lack of an overtime allowance. A driver’s salary is not directly dependent on the number of trips he makes.
No wonder then that hundreds of commuters keep waiting as buses disappear from the roads, especially at night. “There aren’t too many private buses and no state-run buses after 10pm,” said Gautam Bose, a resident of Avishikta housing estate off the Bypass. He either takes an auto or shuttle cab to reach Ruby rotary and then waits on the Bypass for a vehicle to take him home.
The last state bus from Joka via the Rashbehari connector leaves at 8pm and the last state bus to travel the road from Tollygunge leaves at 9pm.
No one at the depots seemed to know when the last buses leave. Just as no one was sure if the state bus scheduled to leave Kidderpore depot at 10.30pm actually plies. Similar is the case of a state bus from Unitech (New Town) to Sarsuna scheduled to start at 9pm and another from Airport to Garia at 10.30pm. Few regular commuters have ever seen the buses. “Never,” said a Rajiv Sen, a Sector V employee.
Shyamal Gupta of Dunlop has to depend on shuttle cabs as there is rarely a state bus for Barrackpore from Shyambazar after 10pm.
Probably aware of the plight of commuters whose votes could make a difference, Mitra on Wednesday told CSTC board members that he was aware of the problems but that a way must be worked out to solve them. “You need to draw up a schedule where more buses could travel from the city centre to the fringes carrying late-night passengers,” he said.
Department insiders said shuttle service was an option on routes where there were enough passengers but it was almost impossible to put in place a permanent system unless there were enough buses.
“The government has decided to get 632 new buses for CSTC under the JNNURM scheme,” said a senior official. “It would take a few months for the entire fleet to arrive. Till then we would try to work out a stop-gap arrangement.”
Insiders said the new buses were unlikely to ring in a change unless there is a will to make the change happen.
“Otherwise, there will be resistance from employees’ unions and the government will find it difficult to ignore them,” an official said.