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Diesel price hike worries transport corporations

K.T. Sangameswaran

Losses accumulated by them have not been cleared yet: officials


CHENNAI: : State transport corporations in Tamil Nadu are groaning under the burden of the latest increase in diesel price in a year in which the undertakings have a huge financial commitment towards employees wage revision.

With the State Government remaining firm in its resolve not to increase bus fares, transport corporation authorities are worried about the financial position of the undertakings. Official sources say though the solace is that State transport undertakings (STUs) started earning profits in the last couple of years, the losses accumulated by them have not been cleared yet. It is in this scenario that the price of diesel has been increased posing an additional burden on the STUs.

Having been subjected to shocks due to the hike in the price of fuel in succession in the last one year, on their part, the transport corporation managements are concentrating more on conserving diesel by improving the kilometres per litre (KMPL), avoiding leakages and counselling drivers. These measures will go a long way in reducing the financial commitment on the fuel front.

It is officially claimed that the KMPL improved from 4.45 in 2003-04 to 4.60 up to January 2005, resulting in a saving of about Rs. 42 crores.

For instance, it is estimated that due to the latest hike, the State Express Transport Corporation (SETC) with a fleet strength of 880 buses, of which 830 are on the roads on 165 long-distance routes, will have to incur an additional expenditure of Rs. 60-65 lakhs a month. On an average, the buses cover a distance of five lakh kilometres a day. The situation is such that fuel constitutes 75 per cent of the variable cost, the sources explain. With a view to conserving oil, the corporation has achieved 5.10 KMPL against 4.75 KMPL a few months ago. Encouraged by this, the corporation has fixed a target of achieving 5.50 KMPL. With this in view, the crew is being impressed upon to operate the vehicles at the correct speed and avoid unnecessary revving up.

Similarly, with a fleet strength of 2,550 buses on the roads, the Metropolitan Transport Corporation in Chennai will have to incur an additional Rs. 1 crore a month due to the latest increase. Fuel accounts for 35 per cent of the operating cost. The present KMPL achieved is 3.68 and a target of 4 KMPL has been fixed. The management has put a Deputy Manager level officer in charge of fuel conservation. Drivers are being told to switch off the engine while waiting for signal or when the vehicles are stopped for issuing tickets.

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