The city might get a pair of women-only ‘Pink Buses’, courtesy the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC).
The agency is expected to shortly roll out the pink-coloured buses in Thiruvananthapuram. “Such buses having women conductors can be launched in Kochi too within a couple of months. To begin with, two buses could be allotted for Kochi, depending on the patronage for the services in Thiruvananthapuram,” said M.G. Rajamanickam, MD of KSRTC.
“There is widespread demand for a safe, comfortable public transportation mode in cities, especially during peak hours when buses are overcrowded. More services can be introduced based on passenger patronage for the proposed buses. The capital investment on a bus comes to around Rs.20 lakh, while we would have to recruit at least two drivers and two conductors as crew,” he added.
The Urban Development Ministry had sent letters to State governments exhorting them to set apart a few buses allotted under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) project as women-only buses. Following this, the KSRTC introduced a women-only service in the Aroor-Kakkanad route during peak hours on working days. However, this service did not have adequate patronage, reportedly due to inadequate awareness among office-goers.
The agency is now planning to ensure sound patronage for the proposed buses by giving them pink colour, taking a cue from Pink Taxis driven by women in Kerala’s cities.
“Apart from office-goers, there is huge demand for such a service from sales girls employed in textile shops. Their work ends at around 9 p.m., by which time private buses end their trips,” said another KSRTC official.
Responding to the demand that the KSRTC step in and introduce night services from the city to suburban towns and also a few intra-city circular services, Mr. Rajamanickam said this could be considered. “A workshop-cum-interactive session will be organised shortly in Kochi to elicit people’s response on introducing night buses and improving city services such as Tirukochi buses. Most commuters prefer KSRTC buses to private ones and we need to cater to this segment,” he said.
In the absence of buses that operate well into the night, commuters who arrive in the city late and sales girls have to pay over double the permitted fare to travel in autorickshaws. Men can often be seen hitch-hiking in taxi cars and goods carriers, even in Vyttila, the busiest junction in Kerala.