The inter-State passenger bus services between the two Telugu States is currently operational on the basis of ad hoc provisions under Clause 72(1) of the AP Re-organisation Act 2014. This is applicable till the expiry of the permits held by the operators as on the appointed day of Telangana formation. However, since most the permits have expired, there is now a need to regularise the operations through a proper Inter-State agreement.
It is the mandatory ‘inter-State agreement’ that governs the operation of passenger transport services between two or more States as per Section 88 of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, and allows ‘parity of operations’ between the party States. Inclusion of the route in the above agreement is a condition for granting permission by any State transport authority.
The ‘operations holiday’ in practice on inter-State routes following the lockdown could be utilised as an opportunity for completing this agreement.
Prior to the formation of Telangana, all the permits held by the united APSRTC were intra-State. Under this, there was no restriction for seeking permits by operating units on routes as well as for transfer of permits between the operating units without altering the route course and trips as mentioned in the provisions of Government gazette notification.
This implies that the permits were divisible as per parity of kilometres of operation with mutual consent. However, this was not implemented. A reason could be maintaining harmonious relations during bifurcation and keeping the larger interest of both the corporations so that they do not remain idle or add extra operating resources suddenly at the cost of each other, which again were to be apportioned as per Part VI of Section 53 of AP Re-organisation Act.
Efforts were made by both the parties to arrive at the parity of km through negotiations — reducing operations by APSRTC and increasing operations by TSRTC as and when the permits expired. However, real parity could not be achieved due to insufficiency of new high-end coaches with the TSRTC to match AP due to relatively longer routes and lack of permits surrendered by AP among others.
The issue was sidelined by the Government of Andhra Pradesh by clubbing stage carriage passenger transport permits with contract carriage passenger transport and goods transport permit issues, where it had an advantage. The taxation issue also added to the confusion.
Andhra Pradesh is better placed when it comes to national/contract permits, both in passenger and goods transports, by virtue of having more number of bordering States.
The traffic movement from Andhra to Telangana is majorly unidirectional, towards Hyderabad for the obvious reason that Hyderabad is the capital. The ratio of operational km between AP and TS has now improved to 62:38 approximately from 78:22 on the appointed day.
Strategies for Parity
Marketing: It will take some time for the TSRTC to effectively match its counterpart in inter-State passenger bus operations in terms of volume owing to the following factors:
‘Customer affinity’ will tend to increase organically when the origin of the service agent matches with that of the commuter in the travel industry. Otherwise, it has to be induced by employing inorganic methods of technological advancements in service delivery and through imparting extensive training to serving crew to attract commuters.
The demand for sleeper coach is on the rise among passengers making journeys beyond 250 km. Travelling pattern of commuters developed over decades play a major role in deciding point of origin and point of termination of service. The TSRTC must change the service origin points to the west of Hyderabad, as 90% of Andhra-bound inter-State traffic originates from that part of the city. Steps should be taken for establishing exclusive inter-State depots equipped with the latest technology for long-distance operations.
Managerial: To optimise resource utilisation, more and more schedules should be planned from surrounding districts to the Andhra area. The TSRTC, taking a cue from the ongoing exercise of trifurcation of AP capital, should plan for acquisition of space for halting buses in AP immediately at least at two strategic places like Gannavaram and Kurnool besides exploring this in important places like Maharashtra and Karnataka where its sleeper and air-conditioned coaches compete with private ones.
Technological: Plan for ‘more from the same’. The Union government’s gazette notification of June 26, 2020, empowers operators to increase the size of the bus up to a quarter over the present and offers an opportunity for achieving ‘more from same’ by handling more traffic without any increase in fleet strength. Vehicle manufactures should be persuaded to supply buses as per the new specifications.
Role of Government
The TSRTC must make an urgent request to the Telangana government to impress upon Andhra Pradesh for notifying the provisions and entering into an Inter-State agreement with the existing number of routes and a 50% increase in the existing trips to compete with contract carriages, exclusively for RTCs, before rules under the new Act are framed, decoupling contract and goods permit subjects.
This is not difficult to achieve as Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has vast expertise in transport matters. As a former Transport Minister, he has the distinction of turning around the united corporation and now as Chief Minister, he has cordial relations with his counterpart in AP.
(The author is retired ED of TSRTC)
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