State Transport department is ready to gradually phase out the age-old, familiar red-and-yellow fleet of mini-buses from the major (trunk) routes of the city.
In other words, fast-paced lanes like CR Avenue, AJC Bose Road, SP Mukherjee Road, EM By-pass in the city will not have mini-buses plying on them in the future.
And in its place, the transport department is going to introduce low-floor, air-conditioned buses – similar to the ones plying in Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune. This is to keep pace with the passenger trend of travelling comfortably.
However, for sometime, the mini-buses would be allowed to ply on the arterial roads of the city like the NS Bose Road connecting Tollygunje to Garia, Paribesh Bhavan to Rajarhat road, Nimtolla Ghat to Beadon Street, etc.
The State Transport department has asked the West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation to prepare the project report as soon as possible after seeking the opinion of private operators.
This change is being brought about to reduce staff cost per passenger, to run high-capacity and comfortable buses that would reduce traffic congestion in the city.
"WBSTC would soon introduce low-floor, air-conditioned buses in the city having high passenger capacity," said WBSTC Managing Director GP Konar.
According to Konar, a fleet of 3,000 minibuses is causing immense traffic congestion and is also not cost-efficient. In its place, the new low-floor buses would be introduced that would operate on the basis of "Sharing of Operational Surplus" with private transport partners.
"At present, we are using a driver and a conductor to carry 35-odd passengers in a minibus. And the rides are uncomfortable. But once we run buses with a capacity of 100 passengers, we immediately bring down the staff cost per passenger and bring in passenger comfort," explained GP Konar.
After the blueprint of this system is prepared, WBSTC will get it ratified by its board of directors and the transport department. In the draft proposal, WBSTC is recommending a requirement of 200-odd low-floor buses to meet the city passenger traffic.
Out of which 125 buses would be low-floor, AC buses, measuring 17 metres with a 125-horse power engine. These buses would cost Rs 80 lakh each. And another 75 low-floor, AC buses measuring 8 metres would also be introduced costing Rs 30 lakh each. These kinds of buses are plying in Pune and Bangalore.
WBSTC is already talking with Ashok Leyland and Telco for the purchase of these buses.
"They would be manufactured according to the technical configurations provide by our state government," said GP Konar.
WBSTC has already started talking with private transport partners too for running the low-floor bus fleet. Among the private partners, the Kaushik Logistics Pvt Ltd is going to be a major partner of the WBSTC in this venture.
"I expect everything to be finalised within a month. And once the deal is struck we will come to know about the financial and technical modalities for running the new city buses," said MD Kaushik Logistics Dhanonjoy Singh.
Meanwhile, the mini-bus operators are not aware of this development. They are waiting for the government order before approaching the transport department.
"How can 200 buses meet the requirement of such a huge volume of passengers. And, if the government does decide to bring a change how do they plan to rehabilitate people engaged with the operation of mini-buses in the city?" asked Mini-Bus Operators Coordination Committee general secretary Abashesh Daw.