Operators jack up fares by 50 p.c., taking advantage of the holiday rush

With Ramzan festival falling on Friday (August 9), it was an extended weekend. As expected, trains and buses, especially going to and arriving from Chennai, were packed to the hilt on Saturday (August10) and Sunday (August 11) evenings. What followed was a scramble for tickets for unreserved coaches on the trains. This opened up an excellent opportunity for private bus operators, particularly those operating air-conditioned, super deluxe, and semi-sleeper buses. Although the normal fare in these buses is slightly higher than that of the State Express Transport Corporation, Sunday proved to be an exception in Tiruchi, thanks to the huge demand. Private bus operators made a killing by increasing the fare by more than 50 per cent.

The fare from Tiruchi to Chennai on SETC non-air-conditioned buses ranges between Rs. 215 and Rs. 250 on a normal day. It is Rs. 350 in air-conditioned buses. TNSTC charges Rs. 190. Private bus operators charge Rs. 270 to Rs. 300 for non-AC buses, Rs. 400 to Rs.500 for semi-sleeper AC buses, and Rs. 650 for AC sleeper facility. Heavy rush for Chennai-bound buses at the central bus stand prompted the private operators to charge Rs. 1,000 for a seat.

The hapless passengers desperate to get back to the State capital were left with no choice but to cough up the extra amount. Initially, Rs. 800 was demanded from the last minute passengers for the semi-sleeper AC buses from Thanjavur to Chennai. With the passing of time and the crowd surging by the minute, the fare went up to Rs. 1,000. “As my family was travelling with me, I had no other alternative but to pay the money demanded by the operators,” said P. Gnanasekaran, a native of Thanjavur, who is employed in a private firm in Chennai.

Private van operators too took full advantage of the situation. At least half a dozen vans were spotted near the SETC bus stand in Thanjavur, waiting to take the passengers to Chennai. They charged a fare of Rs. 450, says A. Ganapathiraman of Thanjavur town, whose son, a Chennai city college student, managed to get a seat in a van. “

With Deepavali, Christmas, and Pongal round the corner, the transport department and the police should take strict action to ensure that the people are not exploited, ” said K. Mohan of Ponnagar in Tiruchi, a consumer activist.

The authorities should make bus operators display a notice board in front of their offices with fares for various destinations prominently, he said.