A State government bus, carrying 30 passengers, was extensively damaged in a fire at Tambaram on Chennai Bypass on Saturday morning. The passengers and the two crew members escaped without any injuries. The bus (TN-32 N 3537) belongs to the Villupuram Division of Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation. Its crew – driver Jothi Ramalingam (44) and conductor K. Pandurangan (50) – had brought it to Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus in Koyambedu from Kallakurichi in Villupuram District in the morning. About 30 passengers boarded the bus which left CMBT at 12.35 for Kallakurichi via Villupuram and Tirukoilur. A little past 1 p.m., the driver noticed smoke emerging from the gear box and soon, a fire erupted from it, the driver said. The bus was halted immediately and the passengers rushed out of the bus.
In a matter of minutes, flames engulfed the bus and it suffered total damage. The interior of bus were entirely gutted, said S. Dorairaj, driver of a mini lorry, an eye-witness.
Three fire tenders from Tambaram and Poonamallee put out the fire in less than one hour. Traffic was disrupted for a while on the stretch due to the accident. Attempts by the Tambaram traffic police to move the bus from the spot failed as its wheels were jammed. Later, the bus was moved to the side of the bypass.
Staff from the Villupuram Division who visited the spot, said the bus was a little more a year old and had logged about 1.5 lakh kilometers.
Members of trade unions at government transport corporations told The Hindu that buses shuttling between Chennai and mofussil locations were often made to undergo more than the standard four trips a day leaving little time for maintenance.
They added that a bus has to be stationed at the depot for not less than four hours so that staff can check and plug oil leaks and ensure that the brakes and suspensions are properly functioning, besides focussing on electrical maintenance. However, they say there is a shortage of technical staff in many depots.