Private transport providers make a killing during festive season

Most people who travelled to various destinations this Dasara festival season had a bitter experience, as private transporters made a killing by charging exorbitant fare.

And it is going to be a repeat experience for travellers who fail to book tickets in advance during the coming extended holidays in the first week of November.

Consider this: Airfare between Mangalore and Hubli during the peak holiday season was in the range of Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 a seat, against the normal fare of Rs 2,500. An air ticket to Hubli from Bangalore was sold at Rs 12,000 this season. 

“Airfare to Belgaum on a normal day is Rs 2,500 a seat. It was hovering around Rs 5,000 this festive season. On Friday morning, the fare was Rs 4,999, and it is likely to cross Rs 5,500 by Saturday morning. Ditto with air tickets to Hubli from Bangalore. There is a cartel formation among the private operators when it comes to selling seats,” B N Mohan of Balaji Travels, Wilson Garden, said. 

Muzamil Sharief of United Tours and Travels said airlines were utilising the festival season to make good the loss they incurred due to the depreciating rupee and a hike in the price of aviation turbine fuel. Fares are increased during holiday season every year. But this year saw an exorbitant increase, he added.

The State government officials have been enjoying an extended holiday starting October 12. Employees in private firms, too, chose to holiday during this season. Another extended holiday will shortly begin from November 1 for four days (Rajyotsava, Naraka Chaturdasi, Sunday and Balipadyami). 

Buses make the most

It was private bus operators who made the most of the situation. A private transport company, for instance, charged up to Rs 3,000 per ticket (AC sleeper) from Bangalore to Belgaum on October 12, against the normal rate of Rs 800. 

Bus fare (from AC sleeper to Volvo semi-sleeper) seat to this destination among all top private transporters was in the range of Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000 – more than the normal airfare. Similarly, an AC sleeper ticket from  Bangalore to Ankola in Uttara Kannada district was sold at Rs 2,800, against the normal Rs 600.

The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) too had increased the fare for its special buses (additional buses pressed into service to clear the rush). However, KSRTC Managing Director N Manjunatha Prasad said the Corporation increased the fares marginally only to recover the cost of running additional buses and that it did not earn any profit like private transporters. Special buses are diverted from other depots. The Corporation has to bear the cost of fuel and emoluments to the staff. Hence, fare for the special service is increased, he added.

The KSRTC has a fleet of 8,339 buses, excluding about 500 spare vehicles. It operated the entire fleet, including the spare buses, this festival season. But it was hardly enough to clear the rush. Those who used KSRTC buses had reserved tickets (mainly luxury vehicles) much in advance. 

And all those less-fortunate ones, who could not plan their travel in advance and who form a major chunk of travellers, therefore, had to depend on private buses. Private transport companies jack up fare depending on the demand. 

A majority of these companies keep a good number of seats vacant till the last two to three days of journey. These seats sell like hotcakes and at exorbitant rate.

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