Heavy rush in Kottayam-Alappuzha route as main boat undergoes repair

The main boat A58 had a carrying capacity of 110 people. However, the new replacement boat only has a seating capacity of 75. Photo: File Photo

Alappuzha: Daily commuters in the northern Kuttanad region are having to put their lives at risk while travelling to Alappuzha due to overcrowding in the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) morning boat service from Kottayam. Local sources say that this has been the case for the last couple of days as the main boat conducting the morning service has been temporarily sidelined for repair works. “We have been listening to complaints from passengers for over two days now. As of now, we assume that everything will get back to normal before long, if not we will take up the issue with the concerned officials,” said Padmakumar, vice-president of Pulinkunnoo grama panchayat.

According to local sources, the main A58 boat which used to conduct the service had a seating capacity of 110 people. After it was taken out for repair, the replacement boat put on service was the A31 boat which has a seating capacity of only 75 people. The SWTD A58 morning boat from Kottayam to Alappuzha is a lifeline for office goers and students of the northern Kuttanad region. Only SWTD boats conduct regular services on this route. The absence of private passenger operators is cited as the main reason behind the significant strain experienced by the depleted fleet of SWTD. It is not clear when the main boat will be put back into service.

“Any machine which is being operated for 16 hours a day, every day will eventually need repair works to sustain it,” says Shaji V. Nair, Director of SWTD. “As of now, I cannot say when the boat will be back in service.” The SWTD director also said that the so-called problem of overcrowding has been blown out of proportion. He blamed the lack of cooperation and the inherent tendency to sensationalise things as the main reasons behind the present controversy. “While the A58 boat is highly preferred by the commuters, it is not the only boat service to Alappuzha available for the Kuttanad people. Other services are available before and after this one. All that is requested from them is the willingness to make temporary adjustments till the main boat is put back on active service.” The SWTD director further said that while some crowding was reported in the initial days, the problem has now been solved by itself as people have resorted to other means for their daily commute after becoming aware of the dangers due to overcrowding. While the SWTD director chose not to give a date on when the A58 boat will be put back in service, local sources believe that it will happen within one or two days as the issue has gained media attention now.

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