The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The bridge, the river and kids' play. Brilliantly captured by Sujay Kumar Das.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Whiteliner: An update

Launched not so long ago, Whiteliners, the flagship executive bus service of state government-owned West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation (WBSTC), run by the franchise Pirojiwal Infrastructure Ltd, is struggling to cope up with demand. The large white luxury buses were so successful, smaller buses have been added to the Whiteliner fleet. More routes have been added. Following in footsteps WBSTC has come up with a Starbus fleet of small executive buses outside the Whiteliner brand.

I prefer a Whiteliner everyday when I commute from Baguiati. The Airport-Santragachhi route is the only one that drops me at my Beckbagan office on AJC Bose Rd, in flat 42 minutes. And I have to be lucky enough to get one when I need it. The frequency is 15 minutes, but the Airport-Santragachhi route is alternated with Airport-Tollygunge route. So effectively my bus comes once in half an hour. Also AC buses, with naturally higher fares, come in between. The journey from Baguiati to Beckbagan in a non-AC bus costs Rs 16, while in an AC coach it shoots up to Rs 25.

There are two alternatives in case I don't get a Whiteliner. a) Take an Airport- Jadabpur mini bus, get down at Park Circus Tram Depot and walk for 12 minutes to the office. b) Do a break journey- Take a govt bus/ executive bus (The newer one) to Beleghata bus stop on EM Bypass and from there take a white non-executive govt. mini bus (Under WBSTC run by a private co.) to Beckbagan. In both cases one might have to stand in a crowded bus for long. In this scorching and humid Kolkata summer (Humidity generally hovers over 85% and in peak even crosses 95%.) how that feels is not a difficult guess.

The Whiteliner badly needs to increase its frequency on the Santragachhi route. I wonder what stops WBSTC/ Pirojiwal from doing the needful, since business is assured. It leaves out passengers at Baguiati regularly as its sitting capacity is full meanwhile. Also signs of complacence is visible with many buses looking in urgent need of maintenance incl. repaint. In non-AC buses many a time fans are seen missing.

The Whiteliner has brought in a new era in Kolkata's public transport which was anything but satisfactory. It made a significant difference to the people who would be all too willing to pay a little more to commute comfortably and save time too. In a Whiteliner there are many passengers who would otherwise take taxi. But it needs to do some catching up and shrug off the complacence in order to be a service Kolkatans can feel really proud of.