According to a private bus operator, the women who accounted for 50 per cent of the commuters in the city and the town buses declined by nearly 20 per cent after the bus services resumed post-second wave of COVID-19.
The decline in the women passengers’ patronage comes amid the state transport undertakings recording an increase in the women patronage from 40 per cent to 60 per cent. About 4,600 private buses, all stage carriers, have permits to operate on mofussil and city routes across the state, except in a few districts such as Chennai, Madurai city, The Nilgiris and Kanniyakumari. Of them, about 1,000 buses are the town or the city routes buses.
Federation of Bus Operators Associations of Tamil Nadu secretary DR Dharmaraj said that there was a decline in women’s patronage but difficult to give exact numbers as the bus operations have not recovered fully. “With travel completely free for women in the government town buses, women passengers are likely to shift to it. Even in the mofussil bus routes, we expect a decline in women passengers travelling for a short distance as they would wait for the government town buses plying to the villages,” he said.
He added that the full impact of the women passengers shifting to the government town buses would be known only when the bus services resume full operations without restrictions. “Only during the peak hours, the buses are running with more passengers. But, in non-peak hours, there is only 30 per cent passengers’ occupancy,” he said, adding on an average about 2,000 passengers travel in a bus per day before the COVID outbreak. “Post COVID, our occupancy touched up to 80 per cent of the pre-COVID level in January and February this year. Now, after the second wave, we are struggling to touch even 1,000 passengers a day mark,” he said.
Apart from the decline in passenger patronage, the cost of operation has gone up owing to diesel price hike as well.