Forced Facelift Brings Fortune To Kerala's Public Transport

Thiruvananthapuram, September 29: | Updated: Sep 30 2002, 05:30am hrs
Amidst heated protests, facelift has brought change of fortune to Kerala's Rs 100-crore loss-making public transport system Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC). For the last six months, the loss-making corporation has been posting monthly operating profit averaging Rs 35 lakh.

"But for the 32-day strike of government staff early this year, the corporation would have speeded its way to the turnaround," K B Ganesh Kumar, Kerala transport minister told iThe Financial Express.r "No deadline for turnaround is predictable with the present bumpy political ride ahead," he said.

It is hardly a year since the Corporation started on a facelift programme, including phasing out of old vehicles with vehicles new in colour, body and staff-training. The changes were stiffly contested by the unions run by none less than the chief ruling party of the ruling United Democratic Front.

KPCC president K Muralidharan and Congress MP V S Sivakumar were in the forefront of pointing out to the KSRTC unions that the reforms in the transport were retrograde. The resistance had reached a highpoint when the corporation had hired Volvo buses from Karnataka to give a touch of luxury and speed to the public transport.

Art designer Sabu Cyril, who works for Bollywood, had designed the new colourscheme for KSRTC bus, replacing the conventional dull yellow and red with more vibrant metallic colours. "This was done without even accepting an honourarium," Mr Ganesh Kumar said.

In the new bus body, the major iron and wood components has been replaced by aluminium. Lighter body has not only enhanced vehicle performance, but will also improve the resale value of the busbody in the last phase of its life-cycle.

"Staff-training to handle new vehicles is also part of the changeover. The training extends to even fine-tuning the bodylanguage of the drivers," Mr Ganesh Kumar said.

The latest in the KSRTC's facelift operations is the first luxury ride that Kerala's public transport commuter is set to get from Monday. Garuda, the sound-proof, deluxe, long-distance 45-seater, buses launched this week will be flagged off on Monday. Painted in Indian tricolour, Garuda also sports a dash of political mileage in the chequered reform road of KSRTC.