Thiruvananthapuram: The new city services launched by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) in Thiruvananthapuram recently are gradually gaining popularity. The main attraction of these buses, flaunting different colours for each route, is the fare, which is a mere Rs 10 to travel to any destination on the way. According to KSRTC authorities, this fare would be in force till January 15, 2022.
To learn the response of the passengers boarding these buses and also the advantages of these services, a team from ‘Manorama’ took a tour around the city.
Evening at East Fort
When the team boarded the ‘Brown’ city bus which starts from East Fort, there were seven passengers. The time was 4.30 pm and the conductor was luring commuters by announcing the route of the bus: “Karamana…Poojappura…”
A lady approached him with the enquiry, “Will this bus go to Museum?”
“No. Take that ‘Blue’ one,” he replied, pointing to a blue-coloured city bus parked nearby.
One advantage of the new city services was evident. Passengers can learn the route from the colour of the buses. But, some commuters wondered whether these buses were not private services going by their striking colours.
Popular among working women
Incidentally, the colour buses seemed to attract more women passengers. When the ‘Brown’ bus started its trip from East Fort, more than half the seats were occupied by women.
At Karamana stop, a woman who boarded the bus was an officer who worked at the Civil Supplies Corporation in Neyyattinkara. The officer, S Sheela, explained the advantages of the service: “My house is at Vattiyoorkavu. After work, I take a bus from Neyyattinkara to Karamana for which the fare is Rs 32. Before the ‘Brown’ service was launched, there were very few buses from Karmana to Vattiyoorkavu and I was forced to take an auto-rickshaw spending Rs 160 in order to reach home before dark.”
In the morning also, while heading to work in Neyyattinkara, Sheela paid Rs 160 for the auto. “That was the biggest drain on my salary,” she said.
For Sheela, the ‘Brown’ bus has turned out to be a big boon. “In place of Rs 160 as auto charge, I pay a mere Rs 10 as ticket fare on the KSRTC Brown bus,” she explained.
Competing with private buses
At Valiyavila Junction, a private bus approached the ‘Brown’ bus and its driver shouted: “Aren’t you trespassing into our routes? Don’t you maintain a time schedule? This won’t do!”
To which the driver of the ‘Brown’ bus shot back: “Go, tell that to the government!”
In fact, the ‘Brown’ service takes a route not frequently covered by the KSRTC till now such Vettamukku- Illipode- Valiyavila- Thirumala-Vijayamohini Mill- Poojappura- Kunjalummoodu. Since the introduction of the service, there are buses along these stops every 15 minutes. Moreover, a uniform fare Rs 10 to all destinations is a major attraction.
Temple visits made easy
For Sujatha, a homemaker, the service has made her visits to a temple less expensive and smooth. She resides at Thirumala and prays at the Mutharamman Devi Temple at Karamana Junction two days a week. Usually, either her son takes Sujatha to the temple on his bike or she hires an auto-rickshaw spending Rs 70. “The meter on the auto would show only Rs 55 but the drivers always charge Rs 70. I became fed up arguing with them,” she said.
She had read about the new KSRTC service in the newspaper. “Now I can travel to the temple without bothering my son and not depending on the auto. All for the bus charge of Rs 10!” said a beaming Sujatha.
Auto drivers piqued
A section of people aggrieved over the introduction of the colour city services is the auto drivers based at junctions far away from the main road. Before the new city services arrived, people in such areas depended on the autos to reach the nearest bus stop on the main road to board buses.
A roundabout route
Meanwhile, a complaint raised by commuters was regarding the services that ply via Vazhuthacaud and Museum. Many of these daily passengers work in the government offices in the area and rush to the Railway Station and KSRTC bus station at Thampanoor in the evening to catch trains and long-distance buses to head home. However, the colour city services along these routes have been directed by the KSRTC authorities to record their time at the Vikas Bhavan depot. As a result, instead of taking the short route from Museum and Vazhuthacaud to Railway Station, the colour buses take a roundabout route along University and Vikas Bhavan. “This consumes much time and we could miss our train,” said a regular passenger.
Another shortcoming of the new services is the small size of the boards displaying the destination and route, pointed out a commuter.
Daily collection soars
While the new city buses earned a daily collection of only around Rs 1,000 on the first two days, the ticket collections shot up to Rs 3,000-5,000 on the subsequent days. The number of passengers also increased from around 100 to 300 with good crowds during the morning and evening peak hours.
“With the conduct of regular services, several people who travelled to the city and back on their two-wheelers are now boarding the buses. The service is much beneficial for staff of shops and other establishments who may have to conduct three or four trips to the city and back every day as the bus fare is fixed at Rs 10,” said a KSRTC official.