In the face of the pandemic still looming large, about five lakh people travelled to their native places in state-run transport corporation and private buses from the city to celebrate Deepavali with their near and dear ones.
Notwithstanding the moderate to heavy rainfall witnessed on Friday, a large number of people walked into the CMBT and other temporary termini to board buses to their native places. “We are expecting about 4.25 to 4.5 lakh people to travel in the 9,510 buses, including special ones operated by the transport corporation to various destinations in the State. Last year, during Deepavali season, over 6.7 lakh people travelled to their hometowns,” an official of the Transport Department said.
As a precaution to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the official said that the temperatures of all the passengers entering the terminus was being checked and they were also asked to wear masks and use hand sanitisers. On several complaints of passengers not following social distancing norms on the buses, the official said that considering the huge crowds for the festival season, it was difficult to regulate all the passengers. “Besides, the people travelling with their families prefer to sit next to each other,” he added. Passengers used to travelling in private buses were, however, forced to travel in government buses with a large number of omni buses still remaining off the road. “Only about 700 omni buses including 400-500 buses in Chennai are plying across the State. Roughly about 60,000 people travelled on the omni buses from the city,” said a private operator.
The government has decided to extend the operation of inter-state bus services to Karnataka beyond November 16 following a request made by the Karnataka Chief Minister and the public. The government allowed inter-state bus services between the two states for six days till November 16 in the wake of Deepavali. “We are operating 30 buses to Bengaluru from Chennai,” an official of the transport corporation said.
Footfall at city airport crosses 20,000 mark
A day before Deepavali, the passenger footfall at the Chennai airport crossed 20,000 for the first time since lockdown.
On Friday, at least 100 flights arrived and another 100 flights departed from the Chennai airport. Sources said 11,500 passengers travelled from Chennai to their native towns while 9,000 passengers arrived in Chennai to celebrate the festival with their family and relatives.
Sources added that 1,370 passengers travelled to Kolkata from Chennai in seven flights which is the highest number and 1,100 passengers travelled to Delhi in nine flights. Most of the flights were fully occupied to nearby cities including Madurai, Thoothukudi, Tiruchy, Salem, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
According to official, this is the first time the passengers count crossed 20,000 in the last eight months. Until now, the highest passenger footfall reported has been around 15,000 to 17,000 on an average.
Public uses two-wheelers to reach hometowns
People have been travelling on two-wheelers to their native places for the festival along highways, unmindful of the dangers it poses, NHAI officials have said.
After severe restrictions were imposed on public transport during lockdown, several people began travelling long distances in their personal vehicles, including two-wheelers on national and state highways. This trend seems to continue even after public transport has resumed.
“It is normal for a small number of people to travel in their two-wheelers during the festival time. But this year, there is a manifold increase in two-wheelers along the national highways. This is mainly due to COVID than the availability of other modes of travel,” said a senior NHAI official.
People driving in two-wheelers don’t maintain land discipline, the official said, adding that they prefer to travel in high speed on the main carriageway even when there is an availability of service lane. K Damodaran, a resident of Porur said that he would prefer to travel in his two-wheeler with his wife and five-year-old son to his hometown at Tindivanam. “Due to corona scare, I have been travelling to my hometown on the motorcycle. Buses will remain crowded during the festival time,” he said.
An official of the State Express Transport Corporation said instructions were given to drivers to be careful along the highways due to the presence of a large number of two-wheelers.