Commuters had a harrowing time throughout Monday as most buses stayed off the roads and autos were few.
Taxis, the few that were there, charged a premium.
Bus operators said they were forced to stay off the roads fearing water seeping into the engines and forcing owners to go for an overhaul, an expense “we can’t afford now”.
A few that ventured out early morning to catch the office rush returned to the garages by late morning and did not roll out again.
“Most of the buses that are now on the roads are four-cylinder ones that have smaller tyres compared to the old ones. Since the rim sizes are smaller there is a possibility of the vehicles getting stuck in water,” said Pradip Narayan Bose of the West Bengal Bus Minibus Owners Association. “If water seeps into an engine, the total cost of overhauling would vary between Rs 60,000 and Rs 70,000.”
Several bus operators said the volume of water that had collected in front of Mohammad Ali Park, near Deshapriya Park and VIP Road was enough to bring their vehicles to a halt for good.
In Howrah, commuters waded through knee-deep water to reach bus stands and waited on during peak office hours. Packed to capacity, the buses had no space even on the footboards for passengers to step in.
With state buses not available in adequate numbers, demand for app cabs started escalating as hours rolled for many who had no option but to report to duty on the first day of the week. “I had to pay Rs 230 for a 5.5km ride from Acropolis mall to Ballygunge Circular Road around 11.15am,” said Priya Sengupta. “The usual fare even with a surge would vary between Rs 118 and Rs 120,” she said.
By afternoon several app-cab drivers logged out of the app-platform and opted to operate privately demanding fares of their choice. Passengers who had no other option felt lucky to find one.
“I kept waiting after booking a cab at the airport on an app-platform that kept on searching for drivers and no one would be available. Finally, I managed to get one where the driver said he had logged out and demanded Rs 2,000 to drop me off at New Alipore,” said J. Chatterjee who returned from Bangalore on Monday. “The usual fare would be Rs 600 but I thanked my stars to have at least found one to drop me home.”
Around 300 out of the total strength of nearly 1,200 buses were available across Kolkata. “The returns from daily ticket sales is not enough for any bus owner to risk bringing the vehicle out on such a day,” said Rajesh Das a bus owner of route 34C, which operates between Esplanade and Baranagar.
None of the buses on the route took to the streets on Monday.