West Bengal suspends private Kolkata-Dhaka bus service

April 18th, 2008 - 10:49 am ICT by admin  

By Sreya Basu
Kolkata, April 18 (IANS) Authorities in West Bengal have ordered the suspension of the only private bus service between Kolkata and Dhaka because the operator’s permit has run out. But the operator does not agree and is continuing the daily run between the two countries. The West Bengal Surface Transport Corp Ltd (WBSTCL) ordered the suspension of the Souharda service April 10 pending the appointment of a new franchisee.

“The WBSTCL has decided to change its franchisee,” Sumantra Chowdhury, the state transport department’s additional chief secretary, told IANS.

“The June 16, 1999, agreement with Kolkata’s Basanti Tours and Travels Pvt Ltd (BTTPL) expired April 9,” Chowdhury said.

He said the private tour operator had failed to renew its carriage permit since 2003 despite repeated reminders.

“We even extended the agreement to 2008. Now, we are left with no option but to temporarily withdraw the service till we get a new franchisee,” Chowdhury said.

However, the tour operator flouted the WBSTCL order and carried over 80 passengers Wednesday to Dhaka.

Chowdhury said the tour operator could be penalised.

But BTTPL managing director Taraknath Ghosh said: “We have documents that prove the state transport department has permitted us to operate the services till 2009.

“We shall not withdraw our services and if required we shall challenge the government move in the court.”

Since July 16, 1999, two luxury buses of the operator run daily between Salt Lake in northeastern Kolkata and the Dhaka central bus depot.

As per the agreement, the operator paid a royalty of Rs.62,500 per month to the state government for operating the service on this international sector.

The Kolkata-Dhaka bus service has proved to be a lifeline between the two neighbouring countries for the past nine years. Every day it ferries around 150 passengers across the international border.

Interestingly, despite the Kolkata-Dhaka Moitree Express train resuming services Monday, the Souharda service has not lost popularity.

“Even on Tuesday we had about 100 passengers. The price of ticket is Rs.1,090, higher than the cost of train tickets. But travelling by bus does not involve immigration problems at the border. Besides, the arrival and departure timings are very convenient,” Ghosh said.

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