Buses of Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) and State Express Transport Corporation (SETC) are plying non-stop and the crew are working with minimum rest for operating special buses to various destinations for catering to those wanting to visit their home for the Pongal festival.
In addition to the normal services on the designated routes, the corporations are trying to operate as many additional trips as possible as people wanting to reach their native for Pongal have started thronging the bus stands since Friday morning.
Though rush for buses is a common scenario during any festival season, this year people are left with no other option despite the steep hike in bus fare because there had not been a single special train service from Coimbatore towards southern districts. Even on the Chennai sector, the Southern Railway has operated only one service which is just inadequate considering the traffic potential, pointed out Jameel Ahmed of Coimbatore Railway Passengers' Welfare Association.
Coimbatore accounted for a large number of migrant workers from southern districts and it is quite common that all of them try to travel back to their native towns in a span of just two to three days, Mr. Kathirmathiyon said.
At least one special train from Coimbatore to places such as Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari, Tuticorin and back on this direction and one train to Rameshwaram and back besides a couple of services to Madurai and Tiruchirapalli could have completely eased out the pressure on road traffic and buses. One train could serve the travel needs of passengers in at least 30 buses, added R. Raveendran of Residents Awareness Association of Coimbatore. One or two more services to Chennai could have helped considerably.
In the absence of such a service, passengers are left at the mercy of buses by State-run transport corporations or omni bus operators who charge anywhere between Rs. 500 to Rs. 1,250 while the lowest train fare was only Rs. 245 by sleeper while the fare was only Rs. 138 in the second seating class.
While SETC is operating about 30 additional services on crowded long distance sectors such as Chennai and southern districts, Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation is operating special buses from bus stands in the city. From the Singanallur bus stand, where a queue system has been arranged, buses are operated to Tuticorin, Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari, Rajapalayam, Tiruchendur, Sivakashi, Madurai, Tiruchirapalli and Theni.
Similarly buses are operated to Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga, Rameswaram besides Thanjavur, Pudukottai, Arupukkotai, Devakottai and Karaikudi.
In addition to the normal service of once in 15 minutes on the Madurai and Tiruchirapalli side, TNSTC has planned to operate 395 additional trips on Friday night and Saturday.
From the Mettupplayam Road bus stand, it has been planned to operate nearly 30 additional services apart from normal schedule. TNSTC is pressing all its 150 spare buses and if need be at night hours, the semi-low floor buses from the fleet of city bus service will also be drawn for long distance routes, the officials said.
To a demand for introducing advance reservation or the system of issuing tokens to regulate the boarding of buses, a TNSTC official said that with SETC having a centralised reservation facility, the other transport corporations could not do it.
Mr. Kathirmathiyon said to avoid a near stampede situation and ensure a pleasant travel experience, the TNSTC should commence the practice of advance booking or issuing of tokens one week in advance which will help the passengers in planning their journey and also the TNSTC in planning its operation of additional services based on demand.