Roads not keeping up with vehicle population: Expert

Chennai: In the recent times, there has been hue and cry about Transport Corporations in Tamilnadu landing in losses leading to hike in ticket prices and associated woes. Meet D Gopalakrishnan (73), a resident of Raghava Nagar, Madipakkam, who has extensively researched on this topic for many years.

Having retired as a BSNL officer more than a decade ago, he is now the All-India Vice President of BSNL Pensioners’ Welfare Association and Asia Region Secretary of Trade Union International (TUI), a part of World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU). He spoke to News Today about what needs to be sorted out.

Excerpts:

Q: Can privatisation solve the problems of transportation sector?

A: I don’t accept the view that privatisation would be a panacea. But I do agree that the existing system needs stream-lining, pluging the pilferage, stringent action against corrupt officials. One should understand that public sector ensures social justice, welfare of the employees, their families, fulfils social responsibility, obligation of the society and public accountability. These aspects are absent in private sector and their main aim is only profit. Allowing private entry would also increase traffic and ultimately kill the sector.

Q: Are private vehicles the reason for traffic choas?

A: Yes, increase in cars and two wheelers contribute to traffic congestion, pollution and rising road accidents. So, affordable, safe public transport system is essential. Vehicle growth rate between 2005 and 2015 was 9.8 per cent per annum whereas road-length during the same period grew only at 3.7 per cent. In 2014-15, the number of registered vehicles was 2,100 lakh out of which buses constituted only 19.71 lakh (including omni buses). The number of buses owned by State-owned Transport Corporations was only 1.4 lakh.

Q: Are Transport Corporations throughout India on the same boat as Tamilnadu?

A: Yes, in most cases. Chennai MTC operates 3,439 scheduled services in 708 routes, 66 night services, 200 small buses in 87 routes for unconnected areas, 255 ladies special in 96 routes. Many people think that Chennai MTC’s performance is worst. But according to Ministry of Road Transport and Highways Research Wing, there were 54 State Road Transport Undertakings in India out of which 24 owned are by State (SRTC), 12 by companies, 8 by Government Departmental Undertakings and 10 by Municipal Undertakings. In 2015-16, all put together performed 148 crore kilometres per day and carried 6.8 crore people. These provide transport service to rural, inter-city and urban areas. The Ministry presented a report on the basis of inputs received from 47 SRTUs for the year 2015-16. Out of 47 SRTUs, 40 were facing loss and the accumulated loss in 2015-16 was Rs 11,349.78 crore. Among the eight Metro transport corporations like Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkatta, Chandigarh, Delhi, Chennai and Navi Mumbai, all corporations except Bengaluru faced loss (only Bengaluru earned a profit of Rs 58 per day per bus). The loss per day per bus ranges from Rs 2,323 (Navi Mumbai) to Rs 20,421 (Delhi). Chennai MTC stood at second place with Rs 3,563 loss per day per bus.

Q: How does Transport Corporations in Tamilnadu perform?

A: According to the policy note of government, there are eight Transport Corporations in Tamilnadu, with headquarters at Villupuram, Kumbakonam, Madurai, Tirunelveli, Salem, Coimbatore and two at Chennai. Over 22 per cent services are in rural areas. As of 31 March, the fleet strength was 21,744 (including 2,254 spare buses), operating 19,490 schedules services covering 87.22 lakh kilometres per day with a total staff of 1,37,408, 323 depots, 20 workshops, 23 body-building units and 50 fitness certificate units. Total income was Rs 26.35 crore per day out of which Rs 21.36 crore was from ticket collection. There were 70,907 pensioners for whom Rs 963.42 crore was paid as pension.

Q: Can reducing bus-fares and increasing services solve the problems?

A: Yes. Bus-fares were increased by government 20 January. The increase was more than 100 per cent and hence lakhs of people changed their mode of transport to railways which is cheaper and fast. Though it was reduced slightly after nine days, people did not come back to bus transport. So, between 31 March 2017 and 2018, fleet strength got reduced by 789, scheduled services by 1,286 and per day operation by 5.33 lakh kilometres. According to policy note 2018-19, for AC buses, fares are less by 10 paise per kilometre and, for Volvo buses, they are less by 25 paise per kilometre in Kerala than in Tamilnadu. So, there is an urgent need for reducing the bus-fares to attract more passengers and increase the services which would help increase the revenue.

Q: What do you feel about government’s transport concessions?

A: For keeping the social obligations fulfilled by the Transport Corporations, government should give the due subsidies to them. For seven years upto 31 March, government gave only 3,319.58 crore as subsidy for student concession which is far below normal. Depending upon the needs, government should increase the fare only 10 to 20 per cent and should not resort to more than 100 per cent at a time.

How does India perform among the BRICS nations?
According to International Road Federation statistics 2016, among the BRICS countries, India has 1.4 buses per 1,000 persons whereas China has 1.8, Brazil 4.5, Russia 6.1 and South Africa 6.5. So, India still has a long way to go to catch the developed nations.

 

Bus bytes
-In revenue per bus per day, Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) stands first with Rs 9,702 and Chennai MTC stands fourth with Rs 9,303.

-In passengers carried per day per bus, Chennai MTC stands first with 1,270 and Delhi stands second but far behind with 775.

-In bus-staff ratio, BEST stands last with 8.35 while Chennai MTC takes the sixth place with 6.51.

-In staff productivity kilometre / staff per day, Chandigarh stands first with 54.85 and Chennai MTC stands second with 38.74.

-In fuel efficiency per litre, Chennai MTC stands first with 4.36 per kilometre and Bengaluru comes second with 3.76.

 

S Ben Raja