KOLKATA: With the diesel price meter ticking uninterruptedly on, the staggering losses in bus operation may prevent operators from hitting the road on Monday. Since June 6, the price of diesel rose on a daily basis and, compared to June 6, it is now dearer by Rs 7.99 per litre in Kolkata. A majority of operators said plying buses on the old fare structure is increasingly becoming “suicidal” for them.
On Friday, buses stayed away from north Kolkata, leaving hundreds stranded, after diesel price rose from Rs 71.94 to Rs 72.51. Since Friday, diesel price rose by Rs1.09 to Rs 73.60 per litre. “Diesel price is the biggest component of operating cost. We now not only need a fare revision, but a substantial rise,” said Tapan Bandyopadhyay, general secretary of joint council of bus syndicates.
“In the past few days, we incurred a huge loss but operated buses simply out of compulsion as it is an essential service. But we have also exhausted our resources and we are bleeding. Unless the government takes a serious view on this and comes to our rescue with a revised fare table, buses will be off the road incrementally,” said Tarun Senapati, a bus operator.
The price spike is affecting the STUs as well. Since the cost of operation is going up, it may necessitate the government to offer greater subsidy to STUs to sustain public transportation at a modest cost. “But the diesel price is hitting us equally hard. The AC buses consume more diesel and we have no substantial number of AC buses in the fleet now,” said a WBTC officer.
Private buses still serve as the backbone of public mobility, with STU buses complementing the service efficiently. “With life swinging back to a new normal, there will be a mobility crisis if private buses stay off the road. Fare revision should be imminent, otherwise a commuter will end up paying much more by changing modes to reach the workplace,” said Anirudhha Som, a public transport expert.
“Bus operation has stabilized and people know when to leave home to reach office on time. If private bus operation is withheld, commuters will end up spending more time and money,” said Sohini Adhikari, a government employee.