As KSRTC battles its ageing fleet, ‘Robin’ seeks to rule the Pathanamthitta-Coimbatore route

'Robin' bus. File Photo: Manorama Online

Alappuzha: As the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) struggles to maintain the momentum of its long-haul services from Pathanamthitta with an ageing fleet, the controversial bus 'Robin' has thrown in another twist that could further prove troublesome for the corporation.

From February 1, 'Robin' will operate its Coimbatore service half an hour ahead of the KSRTC’s morning service from Pathanamthitta. The private bus will start from Adoor at 3.30 am and reach Pathanamthitta around 4 am, while the first KSRTC bus to Coimbatore from the Pathanamthitta depot departs at 4.30 am.

The bus, which will take the Ranni, Erumeli, Angamaly, and Thrissur route to Palakkad, will reach Coimbatore at 10.30 am. It will operate the return leg at 6 pm from Coimbatore and wind up the trip at Adoor by 1 am.

Confirming the move, Robin's owner Baby Gireesh said he was unfazed by the back-to-back crackdowns by the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) and continued to board people from different points based on prior bookings. “I’m determined to take the fight to its logical conclusion. The bus has been operating without much disruptions ever since we resumed service on December 26, 2023,” he said.

As for KSRTC, in the past week alone, two of its services to Coimbatore had to be cancelled midway after the AC low-floor buses developed a technical snag. The depot authorities have now approached the KSRTC headquarters seeking a new fleet to operate the Coimbatore service, which is a busy route in terms of passenger influx.

Baby Gireesh, meanwhile, attributes the changing schedule to passenger feedback and holds that he does not intend to compete with the KSRTC. “The service is being extended to Adoor to ensure the passengers' access to MC Road.”

“The new national permit norms allow private buses with All India Tourist Bus permits to run services on any routes in India. But the MVD, by initiating back-to-back actions on my bus, is attempting to endorse the monopoly of K-SWIFT buses by the KSRTC on long-distance routes,” said Gireesh.

The stand-off between the MVD and the bus operator began on September 1, 2023, when a team cancelled the vehicle’s fitness certificate following an inspection. The bus had been subjected to departmental action on several occasions, including the imposition of fines on various charges. Besides the Kerala MVD, the Tamil Nadu MVD also launched a crackdown on the service for alleged violation of permit norms.

The bus operator, however, continued service each time either paying a hefty sum as a fine or obtaining favourable verdicts from the court. The key bone of contention between the bus operator and the MVD pertains to the operation of the service on an All India Tourist Bus permit. While the bus operator insists that he is operating the service in line with a relaxation of bus permit norms by the Centre, the MVD holds that the bus had no permission to operate as a stage carriage.

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