Thiruvananthapuram: When the Kerala government this week raised bus fares yet again — this time taking the minimum fare from Rs5 to 6 (33 Fils to 40 Fils) — observers saw it as a tipping point for many passengers to take a call on whether or not to continue bus travel. Upset by the latest fare hike, many passengers may opt for either of the two other options — bike or train travel.
Bus fares are now nearly double the level of train fares, which should prompt many to opt for train services. However, train connectivity and their frequency across Kerala are both suspect, and do not exist in hilly districts like Idukki, making it more likely that cost-conscious passengers may hop on to two-wheelers.
The official line is that bus fares are 58 paise per kilometre, but some independent studies point out that it is as high as 94 paise per kilometre in reality, making a strong case for two-wheeler travel, which is estimated to cost roughly 70 paise per kilometre. And two passengers on a two-wheeler cuts the cost to half of that.
But if a shift does happen towards two-wheeler and other private modes of travel, it could lead to another problem — aggravating the already high incidence of road accidents. Earlier this month, four youths were killed when their car veered off the road at Azheekode near Kodungalloor and plunged into a river.
Kerala may also soon have the tag of having more vehicles than households. Though that tag has not become official, numbers suggest that the vehicle population of six million in Kerala is already nudging the number of households in the state, which is also roughly six million. By the end of this year, the total vehicle population in the state is estimated to touch 6.4 million, clearly overtaking the number of households.