The transport secretary, S.B.S. Bhaduria, said the fare of the trips was yet to be fixed and the state government had inked an agreement with the Bengal government for the service that was likely to start in March.
Transport minister D.T. Lepcha said yesterday: "We are soon starting a bus service from Gangtok to Kolkata and vice-versa, keeping in mind the convenience of tourists visiting Sikkim. The service will be on alternate days. We have found that it is difficult for visitors to get reservation during the peak tourism season. The new service will be of immense help to tourists."
Bhaduria said five AC buses would ply between the capitals of Sikkim and Bengal. "Each bus will have 40 seats and television. The service is likely to start from March," he said.
The transport secretary said the Sikkim Nationalised Transport had inked an agreement with the Bengal government for the inter-state service. "A private party has been entrusted with the service, but it will have to pay a certain amount to the state government. The service will start once the fares are fixed."
At present, for travel between Kolkata and Gangtok, one has to change buses in Siliguri. The fare from Siliguri to Kolkata ranges from Rs 800 to Rs 1,200. The distance between Gangtok and Kolkata is around 600km.
Those travelling from Kolkata by train can get off at NJP and take a bus or taxi to Gangtok. As Sikkim has no airport, air travellers from Kolkata have to disembark at Bagdogra and take the road.
"The bus would start from Gangtok at 11am and reach Siliguri by 3pm. After an hour-long break, the bus will leave for Kolkata. It may take 16 hours to reach Kolkata from Gangtok," said Bhaduria.
He said the buses would be stationed at SNT terminus in Gangtok and Esplanade in Kolkata. The reservation counters will be set up in Gangtok, Siliguri and Kolkata.
Bhaduria said the bus service would also help students from Sikkim who were studying in Kolkata.