Kochi, A research institute here has submitted to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, a community transport model based on a detailed study of the best practices in various countries, and more specifically on the basis of a detailed field research in some of the Boroughs of outer London, to be replicated here in the aftermath of COVID-19.
Titled “Rebooting City Transport System of Kerala under a New Business Model” is done by P.M. Mathew and J.M.I. Sait of the Institute of Small Enterprises and Development(ISED).
According to the study, “The “two-curves problem” in the transport sector demands a thorough restructuring and reorganization of the industry, under an alternative business model”.
“Community transport is a business model that offers flexible and accessible community led solutions in the transport industry. It involves the principles of a social enterprise, responding to unmet local transport needs, and often represents the only avenue for many vulnerable and isolated people, often older people or people with disabilities,” said Mathew, who is also the director of the ISED.
It points out that the public passenger transport system in Kerala today is a hybrid model. There is government intervention through price control. However, since the private sector and the KSRTC have their distinct operational logic, efficiency of service delivery is often doubtful.
Unhealthy competition between the two, and within the private sector, have tremendously added to social costs, such as, frequent accidents, and improper treatment to vulnerable groups. Hence the prevailing model is passenger unfriendly, on the one hand, and unsustainable on the other, and hence it is time to search for a viable alternative business model and theirs can be experimented as a pilot project for Kochi.
Elaborating on their model, ISED outlines six major steps in arriving at an alternative model.
Rearrangement of the bus routes and enhancement of the number of trips, sanitisation points at all the terminals (to be sanitised before every trip, social distance ensured, check-up for passengers ensured), diesel subsidy and tax subsidy to be ensured, COVID season coupon and no tickets, passes of three days/one week/one month validity(optional), travel cost to be fixed on unit basis and coupons to be linked with Kerala Lotteries, or with a separate dedicated lottery.
The ISED model for Kochi proposes to restructure the industry under six zones, and an equal status both for the private sector and the KSRTC. It also seeks to reduce the operational cost significantly and to provide greater space for hygiene and passenger comfort.
“Our model is built upon a few key imperatives. It includes, the need to maintain social distance, the development of a new culture of hygiene to ensure the safety of some sections, such as senior citizens, the need for bringing down traffic congestion as a measure to reduce pollution and to ensure regular sanitation of all buses plying in the city,” added Mathew.