Cashing in on the huge demand from the passengers, who are desperate to visit their native places in other districts ahead of Pongal festival, the omni bus operators in the city have hiked the fare by two to three times.
Passengers to southern districts are among the worst affected. Fares to Tirunelveli, Kanniyakumari, Nagercoil, Thoothukudi and Tiruchendur peaked up to Rs 2,000-Rs 2,500. The fares to places like Coimbatore, Tiruchy, Thanjavur, Mayiladuthurai, Karur and Bengaluru are between Rs 1,700 and Rs 2,000.
“With the train tickets being sold out much in advance, the omni buses are only available option to visit my native Tirunelveli. The government bus ticket will be cheaper but it is also not available. So there is no other option but to take omni buses. They are charging up to Rs 2,700 for AC sleeper and over Rs 750 to 950 for non-AC seater seats,” said S Arunachalam, who works at an IT firm in the city.
However, the operators denied charging higher fares during festival seasons and blamed the travel agency buses for fleecing commuters. “About 5,000 to 10,000 additional buses from various parts of the State are operated during festival seasons. It is not the bigger companies like us but the smaller operators who overcharge. The profit margin of bus operation has drastically come down over the years,” said an officer-bearer of the Tamil Nadu Omni Bus Owners Association (TOBOA).
A Transport department official said that the passengers could complaint about the omni buses hiking the fares. “On the receipt of complaints, we have been taking action on the omni buses. We have set up a 24-hour control room and 11 teams to act on such complaints. The passengers can also complain on the omnibuses at the toll-free number 18004256151,” he said.