The state government today rolled out four hundred additional buses while Volvo buses owned by some big private operators in the city, also hit the road today after a gap of more than two and a half months since 25 March, when the lockdown was imposed across.
Hardly one week ago the state government had announced it will run 400 additional fleets including 200 Volvos that used to ply on long-distance routes like Kolkata-Siliguri, Kolkata-Puri, Kolkata-Ranchi, Kolkata-Asansol, Kolkata-Durgapur, Kolkata-Bokaro etc before the lockdown.
Mr Dhananjay Singh, the owner of the Volvo Royal Cruiser luxury buses plying in inter-districts and adjoining states, has plied his 10 Volvos between BBD Bag and Barasat today to ferry passengers.
“We used to run 35 Volvos on long-distance routes between Kolkata and inter-district towns and states like Odisha and Jharkhand every day till the lockdown was imposed. But now our expensive luxury buses worth around Rs.1.30 crore each, are lying unused since 25 March when the exercise was implemented across states,” Mr Singh said.
“Recently, the state government has asked us to run our luxury vehicles in some routes between the city and adjoining towns to reduce plights of passengers who wait at stands for private buses for hours during this crisis of COVID pandemic,” he said.
“We are running 10 Volvos in between BBD Bag and Barasat through Ultadanga at Rs 80 per passenger from today. Several other Volvo bus operators like Shyamoli Paribhahan, Greenline etc are also plying their luxury fleets responding to the move of the government,” he added.
“We are incurring a huge loss in crores of rupees because all our buses have gone off the road because of lockdown. The same situation is also there in other states like Uttar Pradesh and Delhi where we have our Volvo services. It becomes difficult to arrange money for the salary of our employees like drivers, conductors, and maintenance of the expensive passenger vehicles,” he said.
In a tweet, the state home department had said, “State government is especially mobilising 400 additional buses in greater Kolkata to facilitate commuters’ movements from Monday (15 June). Out of these, 200 will be air-conditioned, as mobilised by sundry private bus operators and permitted by the Transport Department.”
According to sources in the state transport department, apart from 200 air conditioned buses, the remaining two hundred buses are nonair-conditioned and are being mobilised by the South Bengal State Transport Corporation (SBSTC). The four hundred buses will be run connecting different routes in the city including Howrah Station, Esplanade, BBD Bag, Sector V with the adjoining areas of Garia, Behala, Barrackpore and Barasat. Notably, the state transport department was already running more than 1100 buses along 164 routes.
Meanwhile, the private bus operators in the city are apprehensive about their income after the recent hike in fuel prices.