Recent controversy regarding operational issues of JnNURM buses are expected to happen in any set up that lacks ownership, reasoning and service quality checks. Originally, these Buses were given to Cochin Corporation. Since the Corproation did not show much interest in owning JnNURM buses for various reasons (cited many reasons as per the media reports), the responsibility was given to KSRTC. Now the controversy is all about which routes these buses shall ply and not..
One news paper picture attracted me; Mayor and Deputy Mayor staging a protest (or Dharna?) in front of a JnNURM bus that was supposed to schedule its trip to Trivandrum. It surely depicts how the system works in this situation. Though the buses are meant for Cochin Corporation, there is no direct say for Cochin corporation in the operation and management of the fleet. It is pity not because KSRTC is managing the buses but the way the system is structured. Many a times, I wondered who decides what kind of buses and transport system is required for a city in India; is it Local Municipal Corporation or State Government or Central Government? In this case, under the JnNURM scheme, around 200 low floor buses were allocated to the city but I am not sure how did they arrive at 200 (if i can believe media reports)? Was there any study on the floating population and corridors of high dense commuters before allocating these many buses? Are we sure these Volvos, Marcopols and Tatas fit to our bylanes and arterial roads? or the size of the buses are fit with the traffic and commuters flow from the cost benefit angle? here starts the perennial issues of a centralized system.
The buses are meant for Kochi Corporation or metropolitan area. Many argue that buses to Muvattupuzha and Kuthattukulam are against the norms and it violates JnNURM agreement. But KSRTC says some of these routes are profitable. At the same time, there are Vyttila - Vyttila circular services, which render accumulated loss. Now the controversy; buses are rescheduled for Kottayam, Trivandrum, Calicut and Nilamboor and the response; as usual - protest, dharna and media debates. Again, one has to wonder why these routes are chosen. Most of them oppose it because it is against the norms and violation of procedures for JnNURM buses.
We need to approach these issues in a different manner. JnNURM buses are primarily meant to sustain the public transport in the cities. The vibrancy of any city is its floating population. When buses are scheduled in a particular route, a scientific analysis of the proposed corridor density and the volume of commuters to Cochin shall be analysed. If more commuters and floating population to Cochin are in Muvattupuzha route, then it shall be permitted even if JnNURM rules do not permit it. All these shall be decided by the Corporation with the support of a dedicated transport research wing.
Lastly, I am not sure these Volvo buses are designed for long distance trips. I wish KSRTC has sought advice from Volvo regarding this. But I must urge the Government to permit private Air conditioned buses to operate in these long distance routes during day time. If they think there are takers for Volvo in these routes, why cant they allow private bus operators also so that there will be large in number offering quality services.