20,567 special buses will be run to meet the demand, of which, 4,542 will ply between November 3 and 5
The Corporation operates as many as 20,567 special buses to meet the overwhelming demand, of which, 4,542 special buses will ply between November 3 and 5. On Wednesday, 7,187 persons travelled through various State Transport Corporation buses.
Meanwhile, SETC sold a total of 20,266 bus tickets for trips scheduled on Friday, of which, 12,631 tickets were sold in the Chennai sector while 7,635 bookings had transpired in other sectors.
Moreover, 30 special counters were opened to clear the Deepavali rush on Wednesday. Nearly 26 special counters were opened at the Koyambedu bus terminus, two at Tambaram Sanatorium bus terminus and one each in Madhavaram and Poonamallee. Special counters have also been allotted for women and physically-challenged persons.
“We can get a clear picture about the demand in another one day. The Transport Corporation has not yet implemented flexi-fare system and is adhering to the usual rates only,” said Baskaran, the managing director of SETC.
The new air-conditioned buses, which were incurring a huge loss owing to the poor occupancy ratio since its introduction, have registered an upward trend this festival season. “The air-conditioned buses are plying with the full occupancy ratio,” Baskaran added.
While the omni buses are plying with a 60 per cent occupancy ratio ahead of this Deepavali season, private operators claim that the demand this year will be moderate and might increase just two days before the festival.
“The government has recently announced an extra day as holiday. Majority of the population would have planned their trips well in advance. Due to this, the commuters’ population will be spread over the coming days instead of all taking simultaneous trips on a single day. In a way, it is a good thing as this time we can avoid the traffic bottleneck and ensure a smooth travel,” said D Maran, the treasurer of Tamil Nadu Omni Bus Owners Association.
Based on the recent trend, 80 per cent of the commuters of Omni buses prefer vehicles in the categories of the AC and non-AC sleepers. The rest opt for the high-end vehicles, the Volvo and Benz models.
The Association has a total of 2,500 buses under the Volvo-State segment that plies along the routes between Bengaluru and Coimbatore, Nagercoil and Bengaluru, Coimbatore and Thiruvanthapuram, Coimbatore to Visakhapatnam, among others. However, the actual number of buses that ply across the state is only 1,000.
To curb fluctuation in the pricing system, the government has advised private operators to ply vehicles without hurting the normal public transport system. The Transport Department has received nearly 864 public complaints against the private operators on its toll-free number since January of this year.
The Transport department had taken strict action against six complaints and the violators were booked under the section 192 (breach of permit) of the Motor Vehicle Act. A senior official from the Transport Department, said, “The remaining calls were incomplete without full details about the private operators. Without crucial information, the authorities cannot act against the violators.”
Although, the department has not fixed any maximum tariff, the authorities acted in the context of fleecing passengers. On this, a senior official, clarified, “The actions were taken based on the revised tariffs that were submitted with the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court in 2016.” The All Omni Bus Owners Association had submitted a revised fare list with the Madurai Bench based on the diesel price of that period. In the list, it was mentioned that the price of one litre of diesel was Rs 57.38 as on the date October 19 in 2016.
Based on this, the Association had fixed tariff from Chennai to Tiruchy as Rs 850, Madurai Rs 935, Coimbatore Rs 960 and Nagercoil Rs 950 in non-AC sleeper buses. The rates in the AC sleeper buses from Chennai to Tiruchy were fixed at Rs 1,100, Madurai Rs 1,200, Coimbatore Rs 1,200 and Nagercoil Rs 1,600.
Refuting the claim that the Transport Department drew reference from the revised list, Maran said, “We have standardised the rates after troubles erupted frequently over the fluctuation of tariffs in the previous years. In addition, we have a permanent monitoring committee to conduct enquiries on the public complaints. For this purpose, the state has been virtually divided into 16 sectors for better management of disputes. On an average, the Association receives nearly six complaints per month. We issue warnings to make them fall in line.”
Around 3,000 omni buses are operated daily to various parts of the state and its neighboring regions.
On the frequent complaints regarding surge pricing, Maran said, “The operators, irrespective of their fleet size, inadvertently ply vehicle on the usual rates. On the normal days, all the buses to Trivandrum from Chennai operate via Madurai. But, in this season, the maximum number of seats will be booked for Madurai, reflecting a fare that was fixed to cover the whole distance till Thiruvananthapuram.” He claimed that operators, inadvertently, leave the old tariff without adjusting in accordance to new destinations, resulting in a huge variation in the pricing system.
The Association’s online portal has vividly listed the tariff under the different heads- weekdays, weekends and festival fares.
On comparison, the listed festival tariff, when compared to the weekend fare, is over 60 per cent while the cost is 92 per cent higher in Chennai to Madurai route alone, whereas, that in Tiruchy route is 79 per cent high and Coimbatore is over 66 percent.
“The Transport department has opened 30 special counters to cater to the rush of Deepavali rush. Stringent action will be taken against the operators for exploiting bus passengers. The transport authorities will be deployed at all the toll plazas and at important places including Chennai, Madhavaram and Koyambedu. Further, the public can also approach them for any assistance,” said Transport Commissioner C Samayamoorthy.