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Tallah detour: Government mulls bus fare hike

Drivers, conductors, owners suffer as lengthy diversions eat into earnings, say operators
A view of the Tallah bridge from the railway tracks that run under it.

Kinsuk Basu   |   Calcutta   |   Published 16.10.19, 12:45 AM

The state government is mulling a hike in fares for buses that have been forced to make a detour after the Tallah bridge was closed to heavy vehicles.

Transport department officials are likely to meet on Wednesday to discuss if fares can be increased “slightly” on certain routes.

At present, at least 350 buses on nine routes have been forced to make a detour.

For instance, buses on route 214 (Sodepur to Babughat) now take a diversion from Dunlop to reach Dakshineswar, Bally, Howrah Maidan, and Howrah station to reach Babughat — an additional 16km.

Buses on route 230 (Alipore Zoo to Kamarhati) now ply on Dum Dum Road, Lake Town, Kankurgachi, Phoolbagan, and Beleghata among other places to reach Alipore — an additional 11km.

Buses on at least two routes have stopped operations and many have cut down on their fleet strength, citing mounting losses.

If a consensus is reached and operators agree to the revised fares for the current routes, the government can come up with a formal notice in a day or two, a transport department official said.

At a meeting on October 14 with police and transport officials, bus operators had demanded a tweak in the existing routes to rule out competition among themselves.

“We had told government officials of routes where the diversion was almost close to the actual length of the route. This is ridiculous,” Pradip Narayan Bose, a leader of bus operators in north Calcutta, said. “If you have to reach Babughat from Dunlop via Howrah station then no route can be feasible.”

On Tuesday, the transport department came up with a draft notification proposing to “realign” at least 15 routes and deciding to allow government buses — ones that are 12m in length — in Paikpara and Duttabagan, which have been left for one-way movement of vehicles pouring out on BT Road.

A formal order has not been issued apparently because the police are still to clear all the diverted routes.

“We have convened a meeting on Thursday to discuss our next move. All bus operators will be present and a call will be taken whether the routes are feasible or they need to be shut down,” Tapan Bandopadhayay of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicate, the largest body of private bus operators, said.

The talk of a possible fare revision started after bus operators cited figures to transport officials to say drivers and conductors were taking home half the amount they used to earlier and owners were paying more on fuel.

“Earlier, we would earn around Rs 4,000 at the end of the day on ticket sales... now, it is hardly Rs 2,300,” an operator on route 222 (Bonhooghly near Dunlop to Behala) said. “Passengers are refusing buses because of the long detours and we are ending up burning more diesel.”

Several bus operators said passengers were travelling down BT Road and getting off either at Dunlop or at Bonhooghly to take an auto to reach the nearest metro station, at Noapara.


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