Amaravati, Dec 30 (PTI): The Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation is now coming back to its feet after a COVID-19-hit tumultuous year that caused a dip in revenues to the tune of Rs 2,603 crore from March 22.

The state-owned corporation has now drawn up aggressive plans to improve its commercial strength, at the same time enhancing the quality of services to passengers.

As it resumed 72 per cent of its operations this month, the public transport carrier hopes normalcy will be restored by March next.

"Like all others, we too were the worst hit by the COVID-19-induced crisis, but now we are slowly coming back to our feet. We expect things to turn normal by the end of March next," RTC Managing Director M T Krishna Babu said.

Addressing the year-end press conference at the RTC House here on Wednesday, he said absorption of the corporations employees into the state government through the newly created Public Transport Department in January saved the day.

"This ensured that the staff salaries were not stopped.

Otherwise, it would have been very difficult, given the financial situation of the corporation," he said.

In all 5,586 RTC employees were hit by coronavirus of whom 91 succumbed.

The corporation employees each contributed a days wage towards ex-gratia payment and, accordingly, Rs five lakh each was paid to the kin of the deceased, the MD said.

"We were in the forefront in assisting the state government in COVID-19 management activities. We have converted 52 of our AC buses into mobile testing centres for COVID-19 while we also transported 3.07 lakh migrant workers and stranded persons in 11,802 buses, Babu said.

About RTCs new business plans, the MD said four integrated bus stations would be developed, with commercial establishments like malls and star hotels, at Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Kurnool and Tirupati.

This would create a new economic activity in the region and create thousands of new jobs.

"We have also identified eight sites across the state where commercial development activity will be taken up with private parties on build-operate-transfer basis. We will also open 10 petrol stations along with oil companies at various places," the official added.

Referring to inter-state operations, the RTC MD said he had written to his Telangana counterpart seeking to increase APs services from 1,60,999 kilometers to 2,08,856 km after post-pandemic normalcy was restored.

We entered into an MoU with TSRTC on November 2 wherein we reduced our services to 638 after withdrawing 372 buses and 1.04 lakh kilometers. We have taken up the issue with the Telangana government to rework the agreement so that our inter-state operations can be increased, he said.