Kerala approves bus fare hike to cover for losses due to social distancing during travel

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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government has decided to increase the bus fares to cover for the losses incurred by bus owners while operating services by maintaining social distancing norms. The details will be announced through a government order soon. The hike will be applicable only during the COVID-19 period.

To ensure social distancing, a 38-seater city service bus can carry just 19 people. Only one person will be allowed to sit in a two-seater and two persons in a three-seater. No standing passengers will be allowed.

However, the owners of around 12,000 buses maintained that it was not viable to operate while keeping social distancing. They estimate that it would take at least four months before people start feeling comfortable in using public transport.

“We are not going to get even 20 people after the lockdown. It would take some time to regain the glory of public transport,” said general secretary of the Kerala State Private Bus Operators Federation (KSPBOF), Lawrence Babu.

The government has in the meantime given private bus owners more time to pay the quarterly tax which comes to an average of Rs 27,000. The bus owners are also eligible for exemption for the last 30 days as buses were not operating.

KSPBOF demanded more support in the form of tax relaxation and interest free loans for maintenance. The government has decided to write off road tax of KSRTC till March 31 next year.

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