Although Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) officials claim that 189 small buses are plying on city roads, commuters complain that only skeletal service is being run, which does not offer any major improvement in connectivity.
“The small bus from Alandur Metro stopped operating despite good patronage. The small buses are not plying on fixed timings and have no designated routes. Sometimes, they cut short the routes and take a trip covering the small distance. The public has lost their trust in the service and has stopped relying on them,” said S Avinash, a commuter from Meenambakkam.
Sources admitted that small buses are not operating on designated routes and instead ply on ordinary bus routes. For instance, if a small bus is mandated to take 10 trips on its routes, around half of the trips will be diverted to the main routes. Then, the service of an ordinary bus on the same route will be cut short. This way, the Corporation hopes to increase revenue – and stem expenditure – to make up the losses.
“It is a good idea to integrate the transport, as the Chennai Metro Rail Limited’s (CMRL) feeder services are not yielding any profit. We need a policy change to increase the revenue of the transport corporations,” the official source added.
However, due to this, the routes that were once popular, like Anna Nagar-Gemini flyover, Beach Station-Royapuram and Guindy-Porur, are taken over by share autorickshaws and private cabs. Though small buses can fare well in these routes, the services did not pick up owing to various unknown reasons, allege commuters.
But there is no mystery, said an MTC official. “Around 249 services were stopped owing to poor patronage. They are operated during the peak hours to balance the crowd travelling on normal bus routes,” he said. Traffic and Transportation Forum Director V Subramani pointed out how it was not necessary to curtail the service, as the operational cost of these buses is relatively less. “The small buses were introduced to improve the connectivity of the interior roads. We need to continue the practice of conducting the open house to address the grievance of the public,” he said.
The Corporation top brass do not share this vision. “Small buses cannot be plied on roads to improve last-mile connectivity. That will incur a huge loss, and we cannot compete with share autorickshaws and private cab operators,” the senior official pointed out.