Panel to bring private bus back
Private bus operators agreed to return to roads from Thursday after the state government accepted their proposal of setting up a regulatory commission to review fares.
Most private buses have a seating capacity of 38 and minibuses between 27 and 30. The government has made it clear that no one will be allowed to stand on private buses and minibuses from Thursday and passengers will have to wear masks.
Drivers, conductors and assistants will have to wear gloves apart from masks, and passengers have to be provided with sanitisers.
It will take some days for bus services to resume on all routes, according to private bus operators. Many buses are not fit to run because of lack of maintenance during the lockdown, they have said.
On May 29, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had said that buses, both private and state-owned, would ply from June 1. No passenger will be allowed to stand, she had said.
People, though, had a hard time as private buses stayed off the roads. Transport minister Suvendu Adhikari met private bus and minibus operators on Tuesday to find a way out of the impasse.
At the meeting, Adhikari is learnt to have said that the proposal of setting up a regulatory commission was justified and that government would do so. In return, private bus and minibus operators should not stick to their demand for a fare hike but resume services in the city at the earliest, he said.
“We have listened to what the transport minister said… we will resume operations from Thursday,” Pradip Narayan Bose of the West Bengal Bus Minibus Owners’ Association said.
“The government has accepted our proposal. We’ve been told that representatives from bus and minibus unions will be members of the commission.”
No formal order was issued till late on Wednesday regarding the setting up of a regulatory commission. The exact scope of the commission’s work, along with its responsibilities, is being worked out and a government notification will be issued with the chief minister’s clearance, a transport department official said.
“Three senior officials from the department are likely to be in the commission, along with representatives of private bus and minibus operators,” the official said.
The commission will take into account wholesale price index, consumer price index, fuel price and cost of investment as the four broad parameters while deciding the fares. Besides, it will take into account the total number of private buses and minibuses in the state, the passenger count during rush hour and the operating costs as well, the official said.
“Even before the commission starts functioning, we have asked the government to supply us with masks and gloves for our drivers, conductors and helpers,” Swapan Ghosh of the Minibus Operators Coordination Committee said. “The government has agreed to do so.”
Taxis, app cabs and autos can now run with four passengers. The move is aimed to gradually normalise the city’s mass transport, a transport official said.
“This would give a new lease of life to taxi owners. Drivers have been losing out on passengers because a family of four could not be accommodated,” Sambhu Nath Dey of Progressive Taximen’s Union said. “Unlike autos, taxi fares have not been revised.”
An auto operator on the Rashbehari-Gariahat route said fares would be rolled back.