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Relaxing white colour code for tourist buses could topple level-playing field, says CCOA

INDRelaxing white colour code for tourist buses could topple level-playing field, says CCOA

The move to relax the white colour code for tourist buses could topple the level-playing field that the insistence on standardised colour code ushered into the sector and affect the prospects of ordinary investors, office-bearers of Contract Carriage Operators’ Association (CCOA) said here on Monday.

The association has a total of approximately 2,000 members, each of whom owns a bus or a fleet of buses. “The CCOA was formed in 2017 in the wake of ordinary bus operators being affected due to extravagance on the part of a few bus operators who invested heavily in the form of bright colours, an array of multi-coloured lights, and high-decibel music systems. Thankfully, the Kerala High Court issued an order making the colour code mandatory for all tourist/contract carriage buses. In a curious turn of events, efforts are on to dilute norms and to permit bus operators to paint shades and designs that they prefer,” said Binu John, president of CCOA.

The State Transport Authority (STA), which is expected to meet on July 10, has included the colour code issue in its agenda, although bus operators had spent huge sums two years ago to repaint their buses adhering to the standardised colour code even in the midst of the pandemic-induced crisis in the sector. In this context, it would be ideal if those who are keen to return to multiple shades for their bus exterior pay extra and avail All India Tourist Permit (AITP), he added.

These would be among the issues that would be discussed at the State meeting of the CCOA to be held from Tuesday to Thursday at the Bolgatty Palace Convention Centre.

Making matters worse, contract carriage bus operators are finding it tough to install fire safety equipment that the State government is insisting on, since they cost ₹3.50 lakh per bus and are not readily available in the market, said S. Prasanth, general secretary of the association. He expressed angst at the enforcement agencies imposing fine for violation of lane discipline, even on damaged arterial roads and highways. “In addition, innumerable buses have been blacklisted, citing non-payment of service charge to the tune of ₹8.50 crore that Motor Vehicles department personnel had failed to collect at check posts,” he said.

Responding to queries regarding buses “illegally-modified” and registered in States like Nagaland causing accidents like the one off Vyttila a fortnight ago in which an inter-State sleeper bus overturned and crushed a bike rider to death, he said many such buses were built before the bus body code took effect in 2017. “Many such 12-metre-long buses have 36 sleeper berths [six of which were added after the chassis was altered], unlike those registered afterward whose berths are limited to 30.”

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