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Updated: June 7, 2013 12:54 IST
URBAN JUNGLE

A shoddy job on buses

G. Ananthakrishnan
Comment (9)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
A poorly-maintained MTC Bus. Photo: M. Vedhan
The Hindu A poorly-maintained MTC Bus. Photo: M. Vedhan

Most of us are caught in the pincer grip of rising fuel prices and costlier essential articles. The government has announced helpfully that this time, it has spared already expensive petrol, which is the ‘middle class fuel’, and only picked diesel and LPG for price hikes. The problem is, diesel powers not just big, luxury cars, but also our stunted and badly maintained fleet of MTC buses. Chennai buses, incidentally, average 4.39 kilometres to the litre. When fuel costs start mounting for our monopoly bus corporation, commuters feel the heat

Since November last year, city bus rides have become more expensive. Costlier tickets translate into good cash inflows for MTC — officially averaging Rs. 2.89 crore a day. Yet, MTC has been unable to prevent many of its buses from almost falling apart. Passengers are silently paying up for travel by ‘deluxe’ buses that have broken seats, bone-rattling suspensions, doors that don’t close and sometimes, dark, unreadable destination boards. Those problems are likely to get worse, now that the diesel price has gone up steeply. That is the bad news.

The good news is that the ministry of urban development at the Centre, which provided grant funds to the MTC under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission three years ago, is again working on new specifications for buses for another round of JNNURM funding. Remember, it is special funding and bus design conditions that the ministry laid down, that brought a large number of air-conditioned and deluxe buses to Chennai. Without such extra spending, what we usually get is buses that torture knees with a multi step climb, and a floor height that is the same as that of a 1960s lorry.

The average bus commuter is reconciled to shabby treatment, because public transport is looked upon even by policy makers as something meant for unsuccessful people. But the working group of the Planning Commission is more sympathetic. In its report for the Twelfth Plan, it notes there is sheer neglect of the pedestrian, cyclist and public transport user. It points out that hardly any State has a transport professional on its rolls. Chennai is certainly a laggard, and the MTC bus fleet counter is officially stuck at a dismally low 3,497. The government also seems to have dozed off on the plan to introduce mini-buses, never mind that citizens need more and better travel options and road-rail connections today.

The ministry is at work to specify what kind of buses will get funding in the next round of infrastructure augmentation. For one thing, the draft document says an ordinary bus should have a floor that is 400 or 650 mm high, which translates into a lot less strain on our knees. Of course, everything depends on whether corporations such as MTC opt for these buses and keep them in working condition.

Fundamentally, do governments want to give citizens better options? When all political leaders feel suffocated without big, expensive vehicles, why do they offer junk to voters? Why does MTC have a general preference for outmoded designs to transport lakhs of passengers, but occasionally buy better buses when external funding such as a JNNURM plan is available?

How can the Tamil Nadu government decongest Chennai and get more people out of their personal vehicles, if the MTC remains in what is the equivalent of the stone-age for public transport?

(The author is available for an interaction at facebook.com/chennaicentral at 6 p.m. on Monday.)

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Right article at Right time. I was concern about this for last few months. Take KSRTC, they providing good maintenance. Not only bus.. we(TN)are building lot of good infrastructure for recent days. and fails to maintain it. Due to this all our best works not getting wasted.

from:  Rathinakumar
Posted on: Sep 24, 2012 at 20:45 IST

Continuing on the point from Seeta, MTC should create public awareness that MTC buses should not be vandalized/spoilt by the public. On the lines of the recent ads in TV about digitization of television channels in metros, MTC can also ask media houses to help them create a small video on similar lines.

from:  Vignesh Nemana
Posted on: Sep 24, 2012 at 16:54 IST

The need of the hour is education which begins in schools and this include 'Corporation' schools, convent schools, et al. Their curriculum should be lightened and compensated with a healthy dose of responsible behaviour. These children would then, go to their respective homes and spread the good word, causing the world to become a better place. Would those creating syllabi stop to think of our future citizens ?

from:  Seeta
Posted on: Sep 24, 2012 at 16:23 IST

Oh GOD.... when chennai will get good busses, beautiful roads, clean air/water, people's decent behaviour & self decipline. Hell & Heaven is in our hand.. no where...

from:  Ramesh
Posted on: Sep 24, 2012 at 16:18 IST

What is sorely missing is direction. While developed countries use indirect ways (such as making licenses very expensive to get) to dissaud private ownership of vehicles, India is probably the only country in the world that dissauds the public from using public transport, again through indirect means! But there is one thing to note: the public ALSO has the responsibilty of maintaining the public transport. Some commuters regularly vandalize buses, scratching graffitti and pulling out seat handles. The MTC corporation cannot be expected to replace every time a handle is broken: it can do so only if has been accidentally pulled out or is broken as a result of wear and tear. Public decorum also plays a huge part in maintanence of vehicles. And please, stop building flyovers all over Chennai! The craziness has to stop!

from:  Divya Srikanth
Posted on: Sep 24, 2012 at 14:59 IST

Can you highlight or bring to your readers' attention whether the MTC Broadway Terminus here was also designed and built with JNNURM funding and specifications. You would also, per another article, show the present state of affairs (and would during/after the ensuing monsoon rains) which was commissioned/opened by a VIP in the recent past.

K. Gautam

from:  K. Gautam
Posted on: Sep 24, 2012 at 14:22 IST

I have been a regular bus commuter in Chennai for the last 2 decades and have felt that the buses are poorly maintained and that the corporation hardly strives for improvement of services/condition of buses. There are several lacunae in the way the buses are maintained. While the public is in part responsible for the torn seats, filthy interiors, dirty bus bodies (a case in point is the deplorable behavior by some of the college students near Saidapet and Royapettah), the MTC must also look at ways to improve the general conditions of the buses. When it rains overnight, all seats in buses remain soaked and drenched. Buses are rarely cleaned and the so called Volvos also present a shoddy picture. Unless the MTC steps in and imposes some curbs on the shoddy use by the public and incorporate a program to improve the bus conditions, the commuters will need to silently bear the brunt and be put through a lot of inconvenience. A well written article relating to the need for the hour.

from:  Srikanth
Posted on: Sep 24, 2012 at 13:33 IST

Leaders today call Chennai the Detroit of South Asia (leave alone the perennial power cuts that are forcing the manufactures to move to other states) and it is rather anomalous to see such well maintained pun intended buses plying on our roads, if budget is the only constrain in choosing these mass transporters, this could be levelled with the advertising opportunity provided by these city spinners. While we curse government and policy makers for everything that we find odd, we must understand the value of public assets and thrive to use them genuinely and protect and secure them as if it were ours. Let's not forget that they are mostly bought from our hard earned money that we remit to the government as taxes. Just imagine IF the buses are good to use and well maintained, we will be relived pain of driving two wheelers under the scorching heat and four wheelers in this inching traffic, we can enjoy a peaceful and comfortable commute, even if they get a little expensive than now.

from:  VARUN SUNDARABABU
Posted on: Sep 24, 2012 at 11:50 IST

Sadly this is the state of affairs through out the country. Most of the state owned buses are antique and ill-maintained and especially fuel guzzlers. when the fuel consumptions are arrived at, do the statisticians also take into consideration the fuel efficiency of the vehicles? When the elected member of any given constituencey ply in latest model vehicle, the electorate that elected the member is forced to travel back in time for their mass transit vehicles belong to nearly a few decades back.

from:  Nirmala Narayanan
Posted on: Sep 24, 2012 at 08:40 IST
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