Despite introduction of special trains, additional buses, city struggles to accommodate festive rush

When a transit point earns the tag of much sought-after because of its strategic location and good connectivity via road, rail and air, what comes into question is the preparedness to tackle rush of passengers at festive seasons. And the befitting example could not be any other place than Tiruchi, which is now caught in the storm of surging passengers, who are in a jubilant mood and unruffled spirit to spend the every spark of joy with their families.

Catching up with the ticking away of clock, as countdown begins to Deepavali, the volume of passengers is increasing manifold at Tiruchi Railway Junction and Central Bus Stand. Interestingly, this is not an isolated event of celebration, when these two centres burst at the seams.

This is despite the Railways operating special trains, and State Express Transport Corporation and Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation introducing additional buses round the clock from and to Tiruchi.

The people who are mainly dependent are from southern and central districts employed in Chennai. This apart, Tiruchi stands at the equal distance from Chennai and Nagercoil, the southern end.

Like every festival season, the reserved tickets in all the trains from and to Tiruchi were booked on the day reservation opened four months ago.

The Railways announced five pairs of special trains via Tiruchi – three on the chord line and two on the main line – for which the booking commenced on Saturday (November 3). But all the reserved tickets were sold out within a few hours.

Operation of Chennai–Madurai specials with sitting facility, leaving Chennai immediately after the departure of Vaigai express and reaching Madurai about 10 p.m. on two days prior to Deepavali, is likely to help in clearing the swell of passengers. Similar trains should be introduced in the return direction too after the festival, says M. Lourduraj, general secretary of Train Travellers Welfare Association, Tiruchi.

Such trains will be of immense help to the passengers bound for southern districts, he says adding that his association has been pleading for day time trains for many years. The passengers bound for Nagercoil and Tirunelveli would not find difficulty in reaching their destinations, once they reached Madurai. Even a day train on the previous day of Deepavali with only unreserved coaches will be useful for travellers, Mr. Lourduraj adds. As far as buses are concerned, both the SETC and the TNSTC have decided to operate adequate additional buses on long routes a few days prior to the festival and continue for a few more days even after it. “We have planned to increase the strength of special buses at least by 15 per cent this Deepavali compared to last year’s,” says N. Pasupathy, Managing Director of TNSTC, Tiruchi. He says that the TNSTC has worked out a daily-based outgoing and incoming special buses for about a week from November 9.

The passengers from southern districts proceeding to Chennai, who could not get reserved accommodation, start arriving in Tiruchi by noon itself to catch onward train and bus to Chennai. The TNSTC should also concentrate on introducing adequate buses to cities like Madurai and Coimbatore too after the festival, says Ananthalakshmi, a young housewife, who has already come down from Madurai to celebrate the Deepavali with her in-laws.