The Telegraph
Thursday , February 20 , 2014
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Bus blitz to bypass fare-hike demand

The state government has decided to offer 400 bus permits for 19 new routes even as it maintains the status quo on fares that has forced many owners to take their buses off the road.

“We hope to receive a tremendous response to our offer,” transport minister Madan Mitra said on Wednesday. “Willing applicants can approach the transport department directly for the buses instead of going through touts and we will organise bank loans for them. No collateral is required.”

The transport department had announced earlier this month that it would run 200 buses on 15 new routes. The decision to increase the number of permits and routes was taken in anticipation of a huge demand, officials said.

The irony is that Calcutta’s bus fleet has dwindled because of the government’s reluctance to review fares. The price of diesel has increased by Rs 9 a litre along with other costs since the last fare revision in November 2012

Minister Mitra said there was little chance of bus fares being raised “in the immediate future”.

On Wednesday, a group of five private bus operators’ unions staged a 12-hour hunger strike to demand a regulatory committee on fares, among other things.

“Operators have started withdrawing buses from different routes because they are no longer profitable. So how will the proposed new buses do business?” Tapan Bandopadhyay, the secretary of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates, said.

Transport officials dismissed the proposal to set up a regulatory committee, saying the government had already rationalised fares and bus routes. “The routes have been worked out based on a realistic understanding of the market. We have decided to introduce air-conditioned buses and minibuses on the 19 new routes,” a transport official said.


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