Special squads formed to check whether omni bus operators are adhering to safety norms prescribed by the government

The State Express Transport Corporation and Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation have left no stone unturned in their effort to clear the extra rush of passengers this Deepavali season. Authorities of both SETC and TNSTC are working together to meet the pre and post-Deepavali rush. According to a senior TNSTC official, the Madurai division is operating 140 buses to Chennai from Sunday to Wednesday. This is 20 buses more than what it operates on usual days.

The TNSTC, Madurai will operate a total of 250 buses to Coimbatore and 170 to Tirupur. This is 100 buses more than what it operates on other days on both routes.

The crowd on Thursday and Friday was less than we expected. Yet, we have adequate number of buses in reserve to tackle any situation, the official added.

This apart, around 60 SETC buses will be plying to Chennai and 10 buses to Bangalore till Wednesday.

The bookings for regular SETC buses to Chennai were open two months ago, and tickets till Wednesday were sold out within hours, said an SETC official

Though the crowd at Mattuthavani bus stand was moderate on Thursday and Friday, the passengers who were travelling from Chennai to southern districts for Deepavali, were seen waiting for their buses for over an hour. “I have been waiting to board a bus to Sivakasi since 6.30 am. All buses are heavily crowded.” said Pandian, an Engineer.

“Ignoring the needs of passengers travelling from Madurai to several southern districts, the management had deployed most of its buses on Chennai route following an order from the top brass, which has led to shortage this time”, said a TNSTC staff on the condition of anonymity.

When asked about the shortage, a senior TNSTC official denied the allegation and said that the department was able to meet the rush as the government had rolled out nearly 120 new buses this year to meet the demand.

The division has pressed in to service all buses, including spare ones, to carry as many passengers as possible. As part of the security measures, as many as 30 police personnel will be deployed at Mattuthavani, Arapalayam and Periyar bus stands to help regulate the crowd. Omni bus operators have been instructed to park their vehicles at the Melur check post to avoid any obstruction to road users, said Yellapparaj, Assistant Commissioner (Traffic). Volunteers and officials from TNSTC will be available at Mattuthavani and Arapalayam bus stands to guide the crowd. Meanwhile, the passengers travelling by private buses were found grumbling about the excess fare being charged by the private operators.

Barring a few leading bus operators in the city, most operators charged any where between Rs. 900 to Rs. 1500 for A/C and non A/C buses. “I paid Rs. 1200 for a non A/C bus to Chennai. I had no option but to purchase the ticket as almost all operators charge exorbitantly during this time of the year,” said Vijay Arjun Singh, a marketing executive working in Chennai. “The authorities must take steps to regulate the private operators and initiate action those who try to cash in on the situation,” he added. On the issue of overcharging passengers, Madurai Central RTO K. Kalyankumar, said that there is no proper guideline to regulate the private buses when it comes to fixing fares. The State government is yet to fix the bus fares. “But still, based on complaints from the passengers a penalty of upto Rs. 9,000 will slapped on them,” he added.

In the wake of Hyderabad bus accident, that claimed the lives of 45 people, the officials of Regional Transport Department had formed special squads to check whether omni bus operators were adhering to safety norms prescribed by the government and also look into the complaints of fleecing of passengers by collecting excessive fares. Four teams comprising 6 RTO inspectors and 2 RTOs would be stationed at important junctions near the bus terminus, said N. Ravichandran, RTO Madurai North. Buses need to carry a sharp sledge hammer in the event of an emergency and emergency exit door must be available in the vehicle, he added. So far, a total of 25 cases have been booked against private omni bus operators for committing minor offence such as use of dazzling lights and so on, the official said.

According to Regional Transport Department, public may either lodge complaints over phone on 0452-2567835 or e-mail to rtotn64@nic.in.

The RTO staff would be available round the clock at the Madurai Central RTO until November 5.

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