The six-year-old Kerala Urban Road Transport Corporation (KURTC) will be revived and given a new lease of life soon, simultaneous with the formation of KSRTC-SWIFT, a legally independent company for operating long-distance buses. This will bring about optimal utility of KURTC’s fleet of 340 low-floor non-AC buses on city routes.
“Most of these non-AC services were idling due to their low fuel efficiency and higher operation and maintenance expense as compared to regular buses operated by KSRTC, KURTC’s parent organisation,” said Biju Prabhakar, Chairman and Managing Director of KSRTC.
“A decision has been taken to operate the 140-strong fleet of Tata Marco Polo buses of KURTC in Thiruvananthapuram city. Automatic gear system will be installed in the 200 Ashok Leyland rear-engine buses since repairing their manual gear system proved costly and drivers were finding it difficult to change gears. This had resulted in most of them idling in depots, although their engine is very good. Trial run of buses retrofitted with automatic gear was successfully completed in Thiruvananthapuram. More such buses will shortly turn automatic and resume their services,” he said.
The KURTC will be divested of the balance 190 AC buses, which will be brought under KSRTC-SWIFT, which would have under it all long-distance buses of the RTC. Over the past year, these low-floor AC buses — each of which costs ₹1 crore, together operated only 5.17 lakh km, as compared to their potential to operate 190 lakh km. Few complained when this many premium buses, which were procured under JNNURM scheme, were let to rust.
The seats of a few of these buses had been modified in order to provide a more comfortable ride. This improvisation will be done in other buses as well, Mr. Prabhakar said.
The resumption of services of KURTC’s 340 non-AC buses will in turn improve chances of empanelled bus crew being regularised.
The agency, formed as per a Government Order, will also get a full-fledged bylaw to streamline its operations, sources in the agency said.
The KURTC, headquartered at Thevara, was formed in 2015 to array AC and non-AC low-floor buses which were procured largely using Central government funds, to usher in a qualitative change in urban public transport in Kerala. Sadly, it does not even have a full-time special officer to oversee its functioning. Official sources in KURTC said that the agency’s daily services from Thevara fell to a mere 23 AC buses. The pandemic took a toll on patronage for AC buses, which too recorded fuel efficiency of just around 2.40 km per litre, they said.
In the absence of a dedicated team, the operation of KURTC buses was still controlled by KSRTC’s operations wing, based in the State capital.
“For now, we have been instructed to start the idling buses every few days and move them a little, so that they are in running condition. Low-floor buses, priced much higher than regular buses, would not have fallen out of demand if key features like GPS in them had been activated when they were launched over a decade ago,” they added.