Not many takers for KSRTC’s luxury AC buses during pandemicby Special Correspondent
In April last year, Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) inducted the brand new ‘Ambari Dream Class’ luxury buses into its fleet. Each bus was procured at a cost of ₹1.24 crore. Within weeks of their launch, these multi-axle sleeper AC buses were well-received by the passengers, both on the intra-State and inter-State routes, and helped the KSRTC generate more revenue. However, this year the scenario is different. Because of the pandemic, the transport corporation is not in a position to operate all 44 Ambari Dream Class buses, and only six are running now.
Shivayogi C. Kalasad, managing director of KSRTC, said ridership in premier services would increase once the KSRTC resumed services to all the neighbouring States. “At present, services are operated to Andhra Pradesh, Goa, and as Onam special to Kerala. We are hoping to get permission to operate buses to Maharashtra, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu in a week’s time. As of now, we are running a limited number of AC buses. Once we resume inter-State services to all the neighbouring States, we will run more AC buses,” he said.
The KSRTC has 500 premier services, and a majority of them remain off the road.
He said that inter-city services within Karnataka have also increased gradually. “We have resumed Fly Bus on the Bengaluru-Mysuru route. Prior to the lockdown, 10 buses were playing; now two are operated. It will take time. There are various factors such as work from home and virtual meetings that have resulted in reduced travel. This has also resulted in lower occupancy in AC buses. But we are hoping that it will improve in the coming days,” he said. The official said the corporation has taken various safety measures, including sanitisation of buses, maintaining a temperature of less than 24°C, and ensuring good air flow as specified in the SOP.
The MD also said that passenger ridership in non-AC buses had increased consistently over the weeks and had reached more than 8 lakh a day, and in the next couple of weeks would likely cross 10 lakh. “Once the festive season begins, we will have more ridership,” Mr. Kalasad said.
It is not only the KSRTC buses struggling to find passengers for AC buses; even Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) is finding it difficult. The corporation, for the second time, has withdrawn AC buses on the Outer Ring Road (ORR) because of poor patronage. The first time, services were withdrawn on this route in June. “Because of the presence of IT companies on the ORR, AC bus services were popular on the route. But now, because of work from home, there are no travellers. Prior to the lockdown, every month around 2,400 people were purchasing monthly passes to travel in AC buses, but now it has come down to 500. A majority of the people who have purchased monthly passes are those working at Kempegowda International Airport and air passengers,” said a BMTC official. The transport utility has a fleet of 860 buses, out of which 75 to 80 are operating.