KOLKATA: Cost of commuting has increased in the city. With a rising number of buses going off the road because of non-viability, people are breaking their journey into many auto trips. Auto fares also remain high as the operators are still sticking to the pre-lockdown fares, which is almost double the usual rate.
Even buses, which are plying, have already raised fare by Re 1 or Rs 2 per stage, owing to fuel price-rise. “People are paying extra voluntarily so that the route survives in these difficult times. But even then, many operators cannot even recover the operation cost. It is not possible for us to bleed any further,” said Tapan Bandyopadhyay, secretary, Joint Council of Bus Syndicates.

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These “industry” problems need a solution as soon as possible. Ordinary commuters, who pay for the service, should not be made to suffer.

“I am spending almost four to five times the usual fare I used to pay even in March before the lockdown was announced. I travel to Ballygunge Phanri from Behala tram depot. I am paying Rs 50 daily for one-way trip. During return journey, I am spending more. I used to spend Rs 32 for my round trip, which includes changing buses once,” said Adhir Dadgupta, a private insurance company employee.

The fare, which was raised during the Unlock I, remained there even after autos were plying with full passenger-capacity. From Behala tram depot to Rashbehari, the fare used to be Rs 16 and from Behala to Gariahat, it was Rs 21. “Now, in the first stage, the fare is Rs 22 and from Behala to Gariahat it’s Rs 30. This fare is during daytime. At night, it goes up by Rs 5 to Rs 10,” said Saheli Kar, a resident of Taratala.
Auto operators said they were yet to get back the pre-lockdown level passenger rush. “We are often running autos half empty. Moreover, during the lockdown we ran into huge debt as our earnings became zero. Unless, we get a steady passenger flow, we cannot go back to old fares,” said Sanju Gupta, a Behala-Gariahat route committee member.
Price of auto LPG, which is known as auto gas in Kolkata, has actually decreased compared to its price in March. “The auto fare should have reverted back to old structure. Transport department should have intervened,” said Aveek Dhar, a transport economist.

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