With the festival of light just over a fortnight away, passengers couldn’t give a hoot to the medium of transport they would hop on to reach their destination. All that matters to them is to be on time and share the crackers of joy with their family. Now, it is up to the State Transport Corporations and Railways to chart out plans for operating additional buses and special trains to clear the festival rush. But, despite of all the arrangements, Tiruchi, due to its strategic location, always gets caught in the storm of surging passengers, if the past experiences are anything to go by.

This time too, the Railways and the TNSTC have been planning the festival schedule of special trains and buses, and it is expected to be announced in a day or two. Those who are sorely dependent on the special transports are from southern and central districts, and employed in Chennai. Like in every festival season, reserved tickets in all regular trains from and to Tiruchi were booked on the day reservation opened a couple of months ago.

The Railways introduces overnight special trains from Chennai to Tiruchi, Madurai, Tirunelveli, and Kanyakumari to clear the Deepavali rush. Each reserved coach with sleeping facility accommodates 72 passengers. A 20-coach train with 15 reserved coaches can accommodate about 1,000 passengers.

“Operating trains with sleeper coach facility will not help in a big way,” says a section of passengers from delta districts. They suggest operation of day/night special trains with sitting facility in the Chennai-Madurai and Chennai-Nagercoil sections.

“Operation of Chennai–Madurai specials with sitting facility, leaving Chennai immediately after the departure of Vaigai Express and reaching Madurai around 10 p.m. on two days prior to Deepavali will immensely help in clearing the swell of passengers,” says R. J. B. Frederick, chairman, Tamil Nadu Consumer Protection Society, Thanjavur. Similar trains should be introduced in the return direction too after the festival, he says, adding that the Railways could also think of introducing special trains with unreserved coaches in these sections.

Onward journey of passengers bound for Nagercoil and Tirunelveli will not be difficult once they reach Madurai. Even a day train on the day before Deepavali with only unreserved coaches will be useful to travellers, Mr. Frederick feels .

Passengers from southern districts, who do not get reserved tickets on their return trip to Chennai, start arriving in Tiruchi by noon to board trains and buses. The SETC and the TNSTC should concentrate on introducing adequate buses from Tiruchi to cities such as Chennai and Bangalore from the afternoon , says D. Renganathan from Dindigal Road, a retired government official.