The low-floor A/C and non-A/C buses run by the Kerala state road transport corporation (KSRTC) may disappear from the city streets after the agency failed to generate profit from the service introduced three years ago.
The transport agency has been forced to cut expenditure following Supreme Court's order that oil companies were not bound to grant subsidy to KSRTC.
According to KSRTC officials, most of the A/C and non-A/C buses have not generated profit and the chances of cancelling these schedules are high. At present, 48 A/C low-floor buses and 117 non A/C low-floor buses are operating in the city and suburbs.
Though a section of the media had reported that the agency may cancel over 2,000 schedules across the state, mostly from central Kerala, officials in Kochi said that they have not received any official communication in this regard.
"We have not received any official communication so far. We will prepare the list of schedules to be cancelled only after the government fixes the criteria for the same,'' said Ernakulam district transport officer (DTO) C K Radhakrishnan Nair.
Though A/C low-floor buses need to generate revenue of Rs 48 per km to break even, they currently managed only Rs 45 per km, according to officials.
Though these buses have been bought using the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) funds, KSRTC has put Rs 8 as owning charges towards expenditure for procuring the buses. Moreover, while KSRTC has estimated Rs 10 per km for maintenance, the actual charges are much lower at Rs 2.5 per km, according to a Volvo service dealer.
"Even after three years, the maintenance cost of A/C low-floor Volvo buses is Rs 2.5 per km,'' said Siby Mathai, managing director, Vista Driveline Motors Private Ltd.
"Every day we send a report to the Volvo company regarding the number of buses undergoing maintenance. Of the total 80 A/C low-floor Volvo buses running in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram, almost all buses operate services daily except a day or two," he said.
So the actual per km expenditure is at least Rs 15 less for the department, and much closer at Rs 33 per km.
Meanwhile, the cancellation of subsidy would increase the diesel cost by Rs 17 per litre for KSRTC. The mileage of A/C low-floor bus is 2.5 km per litre, and the additional amount required due to the hike in diesel price is around Rs 7 per km. "If you add Rs 7 to the actual per km expenditure of Rs 33, it will only come to around Rs 40. So, the service will still be viable financially," Mathai said. While KSRTC officials maintained that the service had to generate Rs 48 per km to break even, they refused to comment on anomalies related to expenditure.