From shelling out through the nose to jostling in overcrowded buses due to a dearth of transport, commuters returning home from work are faced with hassle every day. It was 8:30 at night when an IT Sector employee Saurav Ghosh (name changed) was waiting at Technopolis for his bus to Dakshineshwar, when a Dhulagorh bound bus finally came it had no foot space as passengers were hanging precariously from the gate. “Returning home at night from the office has become a nightmare as there is hardly any bus on road after 8 pm. The last bus departs by 8 or a maximum by 8:30 pm. Many IT employees like me have to wait for a prolonged time for a bus and if we don’t get one we have to burn our pockets for a shuttle ride to Airport and then another one to Bally from there” said, Ghosh. A bus operator in that stretch has admitted the passengers’ plight saying, “It’s true that buses between Sector V and Belghoria Expressway decrease sharply post 8 pm. On most days’ commuters wage a war against each other to board a bus.”
This is the same situation at other city junctures where the disappearance of buses is leaving commuters stranded for hours. This is because many routes after the pandemic leave for their last trip by 8:30 pm following which there are no buses to ferry passengers waiting at bus stops. The last bus of route 234 departs from Belghoria at 8:20 pm whereas that of 78/1 leaves Rahara at 8 pm.
Rishav Talukdar, a resident of the North suburb frowned over the unavailability of Government buses at times even during peak hours. Another commuter Subrata Saha says “The route which I used to travel has stopped after the pandemic, I have to undertake a break journey by changing autos which have pushed up travel costs. Many bus routes in my neighborhood too have discontinued services”.
However, bus operators on other hand cited that to a lack of passengers at night they have to leave for the last trip early. Also, the steep fall in services of some routes is due to the phasing out of 15 years old buses for complying with emission norms. As the business has become unfavorable because of skyrocketing fuel prices many owners are reluctant to replace their old vehicles with new BS-VI-compliant vehicles which cost around 20 Lakhs as they hardly expect a return on investment.
As many as 2000 buses are likely to face the cutter’s torch by 2025 upon completion of 15 years, which will only aggravate the problem if new buses are not inducted.
A study by a group of bus enthusiasts- Kolkata Bus-O -Pedia found that around 40 routes have gone off the roads in the past four years. Many routes are struggling with 1 or 2 buses. Bus operators have largely blamed fuel prices and an absence of fare revision for the disappearance of buses.
“With fuel prices skyrocketing and memories of the pandemic still afresh, buses of Kolkata have suffered an abrupt ending in several important routes. Until Government intervenes no owners will risk buying new BS-VI buses,” said Pradip Narayan Bose of West Bengal Bus and Minibus Owners’ Association.