Kerala private bus operators say ‘No’ to fare cut

Bus operators in most places in the state are not willing to follow in the footsteps of their counterparts in Pathanamthitta and reduce the ticket charges in the wake of the fall in the price of diesel. “There is no question of our cutting the ticket rates as it is a matter of survival,” said Mr M.B. Satyan, president, All-Kerala Bus Operators Federation.

Mr Lawrence Babu, general secretary, Kerala State Private Bus Operators Federation, said that the operators could not reduce or increase the charges. “It is against the government order. So we are going to submit a complaint against the Adoor bus operator who reduced the charges on his own.”

“We demanded a rise in ticket charges in early 2012 on the grounds that the increase effected by the government was inadequate. After 2012, diesel prices went up by more than 12 per cent while wages increased by 15 per cent. The insurance charges and cost of spare parts too have gone up substantially in the past two years. So a reduction in ticket charges based on diesel price alone is not a feasible idea,” Mr Satyan said.

According to Mr. Babu, the decision of the private bus operator in Adoor was due to a peculiar situation there. The route he operated is dominated by the KSRTC. He had only reduced the price of tickets above Rs 10. The maximum fare on the route he operated was Rs 15. Moreover, most of the tickets sold in the sector were in the lowest fare stages of Rs 7, 9 and 10. The only way he could attract passengers who would otherwise prefer the KSRTC was to reduce the charges for fare stages above Rs 15. It is a business technique, Mr Babu said.

Regarding a few bus owners in Pathanamthitta and other places cutting the fares, Mr Satyan said such individual acts might be prompted by various factors like publicity. “Such decisions cannot be part of the overall industry,” he said.

The fall in diesel prices had given partial relief to the industry facing a grave situation. Justice C.N. Ramchandran Nair committee had made the recommendations after taking into account various factors facing the sector. The government made the revision based on the committee report. “There is no reason for the association to roll back the fare hike allowed by the government. We are also not sure when the fuel prices will shoot up,” he added.

If bus fares are cut in view of reduction in fuel charges, it would worsen the financial condition of the KSRTC.
Sources said that as per the affidavit submitted by the KSRTC in the High Court,it has a monthly revenue of Rs 150 crore a month while expenses had touched Rs 239 crore. There was also a heavy liability every month in terms of pension.

The last hike in bus fares had ensured that the KSRTC would get an additional daily revenue of Rs 50 lakh and the monthly collections would increase by Rs 15 crore. The corporation would have to lose this additional revenue if fares are rolled back to the previous rate, sources said.

The State Government had recently announced a Rs 240 crore revival package to the ailing corporation. As part of the package, the Government decided to introduce additional cess on tickets above Rs 15 to moblise funds for the revival of the corporation.

Meanwhile, lorry owners in Palakkad district have reduced hiring charges following the fall in diesel price. The lorries which carry loads from the Beverages Corporation warehouse have reduced their rent, says Palakkad District Lorry Owners Association state committee office-bearers.

Recently, distillery owners and other companies in Palakkad told transporting contractors that when the power to regulate diesel price was handed over to the oil companies by the Central Government, the price of diesel would fall. This forced lorry owners to reduce the rate.

Association State secretary M.Nandakumar said the rent was fixed due to the fall in diesel price recently. The decision was made to provide stability for workers associated with this field, said Nadakumar.
Apart from Pathnamthitta, a few bus operators conducting services in the Vytill-Cherthala and Guruvayoor-Vytilla sector also reduced rates by Rs 5 on tickets above Rs 25 for daily customers.

On Piravam-Ernakulam route also, some bus operators are charging Rs 5 less from daily passengers. “We are not planning to reduce the rates”, Bus Operators’ Association Kozhikode district president MK Suresh Babu said. “Bus operators in South Kerala might have forced to reduce charges to compete with KSRTC”, he added.

Deccan Chronicle