Bengal private bus operators demand fare hike due to diesel price hike, Covid restrictions
Private bus operators of West Bengal on Tuesday demanded immediate hike in fares owing to mounting diesel cost and Covid-19 related restrictions on the number of passengers that each bus can carry.
Joint Council of Bus Syndicate’s General Secretary Tapan Banerjee said that the passenger transport business in West Bengal is facing a “natural death” owing to the situation where revenue from tickets sales is far lower than daily fuel cost.
“In addition to this, there are other expenses like staff salary, insurance, road tax and bank EMI,” Banerjee said.
He said that the state governments stipulation that only seating capacity passengers can be allowed to board a bus has led to a huge reduction in income.
Now, the rising fuel prices are a further blow to the already ailing passenger transport business, Banerjee said.
“In the present situation, bus fares need to be increased immediately. Otherwise, operators of private buses, who provide the bulk of passenger transportation facilities in the state, will have no choice but to take their vehicles off the roads,” he said.
State transport undertakings the West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC), North Bengal State Transport Corporation and the South Bengal State Transport Corporation - are also suffering because of a huge gap in daily income from ticket sales and expenditure, an official said.
The WBTC is, at present, plying buses in 135 routes in the city and the suburbs, the official said.
Various private bus operators’ associations in West Bengal last week met an expert committee set up by the state government to discuss demands made by them, including a fare hike, for the survival of the private passenger transport business.
The operators told the committee that running private buses with only seating capacity passengers as mandated by the government for maintaining social distancing norms, and rising fuel costs are causing operating losses for the owners, General Secretary of the All Bengal Bus Minibus Samannoy Samity, Rahul Chatterjee, said.
The associations also asked for waiver of road tax during the lockdown period when no income was generated, saying it is difficult for the owners to pay it.
Chatterjee said they have other expenses to meet such as bank EMI and vehicle insurance.
The expert committee, which was set up on June 5, has been asked to submit its report to the government within a month.