Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) contends that the draft notification issued by the Transport Department on the pretext of allowing city entry for Vypin buses is nothing but a move to nationalise the Vypin route. The draft notification released by the government on May 17, 2023, makes no mention of permitting the entry of private buses into the city. Instead, the scheme mentions the nationalisation of a 36-kilometer route between Paravur KSRTC bus station and Vytilla hub via Cherai, Bolgatty junction, High Court junction, Jetty bus stand, and Kadavanthra. If this scheme comes into effect, private buses will not be able to operate on that route against the notification. However, buses with existing permits can operate until the permits expire.
The draft scheme was published under Section 99 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, read with Rule 236 of the Kerala Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989. The provisions enable the state government to propose a road transport scheme that allows state transport undertakings to operate in a particular area or route while completely or partially excluding other operators. The state government can propose such a scheme when it considers it “necessary in the public interest to provide an efficient, adequate, economical and properly coordinated road transport service”. While the public interest in Vypin’s case is the entry of private buses into the city, the draft notification only says that it is to ensure an ‘efficient and adequate transport system’. The demand of the people is not met. Instead, it is clear in the notification that two routes, including Vypin and Cherai region, will be nationalised.
Route 1: 36 km from Paravur KSRTC Stand to Vytilla Hub via Cherai, Bolgatti, High Court Junction, Ernakulam Jetty, Kadavanthra.
Route 2: 34 km from Paravur KSRTC Stand to Kakkanad via Koonammav, Cheranellur, Container Road, High Court Junction, Kaloor, Palarivattam.
Nationalising the Vypin route will have far-reaching consequences for residents in the Vypin Islands, who have demanded increased access to Ernakulam city for more than 18 years since the opening of the Goshree bridge in 2004. The scheme will effectively block private operators from entering the city as it imposes a 25km cap on the route length that can be overlapped by private operators on the nationalised route. Overlapping implies that private operators can also operate on the route that has been nationalised, i.e., private operators are not entirely restricted from operating on the nationalised route. In the said case, the permitted overlap of 25 kilometres will affect private buses from Munambam, Cherai, and Vypin. At present, High Court Junction lies at a 25-kilometre distance from most of the key areas in Vypin. Reaching areas such as Vytilla and Kakkanad necessitates that private buses travel over 25 kilometres on the nationalised route, which is not permitted under the draft scheme, thus restricting the entry of private buses into the city. Further, since an overlap on the route between Paravur and Cherai is not allowed, private buses from Paravur will also be constrained from entering the city.
The draft notification not only disallows the entry of private buses into the city but will also lead to the suspension of existing services. Access to the city by private buses has been a requirement of the residents of Vypin since the opening of the Goshree Bridge. In the interim, KSRTC launched new buses and started the service, but they were not able to carry out the service efficiently. After the new notification, KSRTC will resume service, but the demand of Vypin residents for access of private buses to the city will still remain unfulfilled. CPPR has conveyed its objections to the draft notification to the state transport department. Those who object to the draft notification should inform the government of their objection by June 16, 2023.