Fuel costs, poor ridership deter RTCs from running AC buses

Only 42 of 860 air-conditioned BMTC buses operational

The high price of fuel, coupled with poor patronage, is proving to be hurdle for road transport corporations (RTCs) which have scaled operations of high-end and luxury buses. The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), which has a fleet size of 860 air-conditioned buses, is currently running only 40 odd buses, while the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) is running only half of the 400 AC buses in its fleet.

Shivayogi Kalasad, MD of KSRTC, pointed out that corporations have been operating at a loss since the pandemic last year. Though the second wave appears to be easing, ridership remains low. “As a result, we are forced to take every possible measure to bring down losses. Corporations are paying ₹89 per litre of diesel, and the operational cost is very high. We have no option but to rationalise our service. KSRTC is operating wherever there is demand,” he said. Despite taking such drastic measures, while operating an AC bus, the corporation is still incurring a loss of ₹10-15 per km.

According to Mr. Kalasad, all the four corporations are spending ₹3,000-3,500 crore per year for fuel. They are bracing themselves for further expenditure due to the constant rise in fuel cost.

Within the city limits, BMTC, too, has taken to rationalising resources. Of it’s fleet of 860 AC buses, it is operating only 42 to Kempegowda International Airport, Bannerghatta Zoo and Wonderla Amusement Park. It has completely stopped operations of AC buses within city limits.

“AC buses give a mileage of hardly two km per litre. Considering poor occupancy and fuel prices, we have completely stopped services in the city limits,” said a BMTC official.

A majority of the buses have been parked at the department for nearly a year and a half. BMTC spends ₹50 lakh a month on their maintenance. Prior to the pandemic, BMTC would sell around 2,000-3,000 monthly passes for commuters using AC buses within the city limits. “Now we have stopped issuing monthly passes, barring those to the airport,” said the official.

Salary likely this week

The cash-strapped RTCs are waiting for the State government to release salaries for July. RTCs required nearly ₹360 crore per month to pay staff their salaries, and had sought 75% funding from the State government. While employees have expressed unhappiness over not getting salaries in time, especially during the festive season, Mr. Kalasad said the State government is likely to release funds this week.

Buses to Tamil Nadu from Monday

After a long gap, KSRTC has received a green signal to run buses to Tamil Nadu. From Monday, the corporation will run 250 buses to various destinations such as Hosur, Vellore, Madurai and Chennai. Bus services to Tamil Nadu were stopped on April 27. The resumption of services will come as a huge relief to hundreds of people who commute regularly between the new States. In its absence, they had no option but to get down at Attibele checkpost, cross the border, and board another bus.

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