The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) is citing funds paucity to clear the dues of Rs. 3.2 crore it owes to a firm that maintains its fleet of 202 Volvo low-floor buses, even as the agency is readying to wet lease 50 electric buses as part of its plan to procure 300 such vehicles. Each electric bus will cost Rs. 2.5 crore.
The delay in clearing the dues for the Volvo buses, coupled with inadequate number of trained drivers, has resulted in 60 buses staying off the road since early this year. The number of off-road Volvo buses was 120 over a month ago.
While the situation has changed for the better after more buses took to the roads, it also resulted in dues mounting to Rs. 3.20 crore. Thirty of these grounded buses are in Ernakulam district where KSRTC’s subsidiary KURTC, which operates its fleet of low-floor buses, is headquartered.
“All these buses can resume service if the KURTC clears dues and allots adequate number of mechanics to be trained by our technicians. The Rs. 3.20-crore dues include Rs. 50 lakh that we paid our technicians as salary,” said Siby Mathai, managing director, Vista Driveline Motors, which maintains the Volvo bus fleet of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
“As per our agreement with the KSRTC, a mechanic must be allotted for upkeep of 10 buses. But this seldom happens, resulting in a technician provided by us having to manage the show alone. We are willing to train KSRTC’s mechanics who have a fair idea of electronics. Repairs of 15 more buses in Ernakulam region could be completed in two weeks if dues are cleared and if the KSRTC provides at least three more mechanics,” Mr. Mathai said.
A high-ranking KSRTC official admitted that funds paucity has affected the prompt roll-out of AC low-floor buses. “We are not at all in a position to pay Rs. 3.20 crore. The delay in clearing the dues often results in the firm stopping service support. This caused accumulation of buses awaiting repairs. The 60 buses which have been taken off the road are awaiting major repair works costing Rs. 5 lakh and above a bus,” he said.
Admitting that regularity and punctuality were suffering due to delay in repairing buses and crew shortage, he said that the RTC had redeployed available buses in routes where there was more demand. There was a general fall in demand for AC buses during rainy weather. We hope to roll out more buses prior to the Onam festive season, he said.
60 low-floor buses staying off the road since early this year
They need major repairs costing Rs. 5 lakh and above per bus
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