The APSRTC’s Visakhapatnam region has received an average occupancy rate of 38% due to the partial curfew given the surge in the second wave in COVID-19 cases.
While the number of city services operated on normal days is 711, given the partial curfew, only 181 services operate from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. per day. The drivers and conductors are booked on a rotation basis.
“While the majority of passengers follow COVID protocols like wearing masks, some who don’t are informed by conductors of the dangers of not using a mask,” an RTC official said.
The workers hit hard
The other day, a driver was seen disinfecting passengers’ hands as they boarded the bus at the DBS complex (Dwaraka Bus Station). Social distancing was allowed on some city buses, and drivers said they had no choice but to allow passengers to sit next to each other given the limited hours of operation.
Shopping malls, businesses and stores open at 6 a.m. and close at 12 noon make it difficult for commuters coming from the outskirts of the city and suburbs to work. You must leave the house at least an hour in advance in order to get to work on time.
Since the RTC buses do not start operating until 6 a.m., they have to rely on auto rickshaws to get to work in the city. Similarly, buses stop operating at noon and they will again have to rely on auto rickshaws to get home. The auto rickshaws become overloaded to take advantage of the situation and this puts workers at a higher risk of infection.
A total of 169 RTC employees in the district tested positive for COVID from May 1st to May 18th.
There are 10 depots in the Visakhapatnam region that operate a total of 1,056 services per day during normal hours. However, as of May 18, only 266 services were in operation. Most of the services are operated by Gajuwaka (159), followed by Waltair Depot (155), Simhachalam (151), Visakha Steel City (105) and Maddilapalem (141).
The percentage of operation for the region is 25.19.
“We drive the buses despite the poor occupancy, as some of the passengers have taken monthly bus passes,” says an official.