Some outlets shut by mid-day after running out of fuel; petroleum dealers yet to work out payment and other details with MTC

The State government’s decision to allow its buses to tank up at retail fuel outlets has drawn flak from city motorists.

On Saturday, an outlet in Palavakkam witnessed a few tense moments when motorists grew impatient waiting for fuel.

The bunk attendants were busy ensuring buses made their way safely in and out of the outlet.

Central move

The Central government’s decision to discontinue subsidy on diesel supplied to bulk customers has hurt both transport corporations and omni-bus operators, say petrol dealers.

The hike of nearly Rs. 11 per litre of diesel has forced the State government to send its buses to retail fuel stations where diesel is still sold at the subsidised rate of Rs. 50.68.

According to dealers, officials of Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) are yet to arrive at a decision on the issue.

However, some fuel outlets have been approached by local branch managers of MTC depots and specific requests have been made.

Fuel outlets dry up

The Palavakkam outlet ran dry by afternoon but not before incurring the wrath of regular customers. Arun Kumar, a regular at the outlet, was angry he was asked to wait as the buses were given priority.

“Each time, I fill fuel worth Rs. 500 to Rs. 1000 as I take my car on long business trips. Today, they made me wait until the buses were filled up. And then, when I tried to reverse my car to go get the air pressure checked, the bus driver began yelling at me for making him wait.”

But it was not all smooth-sailing for MTC buses either. Some vehicles were seen waiting in queue as early as 7.30 in the morning.

After the Palavakkam outlet shut, buses queued up at an outlet in Kottivakkam, on the opposite side of the road along ECR.

The outlet manager said, “We have used up our lot of 6,000 litres and, since it is a holiday weekend, the oil companies cannot make supplies. We have been specified mileage norms. But the MTC has a fixed mileage for its buses. What can we do about that?” the irate manager said.

In a spot

But the MTC is in a double dilemma as it cannot pass on the burden of the steep hike to commuters. Hence, the government has sought the support of retail outlets.

But outlet owners have laid some conditions. “We will allow buses to fill fuel either early in the morning or late in the evening, after peak hours. The government is not a regular customer and we cannot give buses priority over regular customers,” said the manager of a retail outlet on Poonamallee High Road.

Nearly 80 buses came to his outlet on Saturday, he said.

“We have asked MTC to identify multiple outlets so the burden is shared. We cannot hold too much stock,” the outlet manager said.

The scene was no different at an outlet in Mandaveli too. “MTC uses our premises to park buses after we shut shop around 10.30 p.m. We have asked the MTC branch manager to send buses for fuel only during lean hours,” the manager said.

Money matters

As far as payment goes, retail outlet managers are expected to provide a statement for the quantity of diesel used by MTC buses. The transport corporation is supposed to pay by cheque.

K. Natarajan, general secretary of MTC employees union, said, “We anticipate a few problems. Today, for instance, there were passengers in the bus when it went to fill fuel. But so far there have been no complaints from them.”

Fuel dealers say they will have to wait until Monday to assess the situation, said M. Kannan, president of Tamil Nadu Petroleum Dealers’ Association.

“We have to discuss the issue with MTC. Our outlets are not built to accommodate buses. The frontage is narrow, just 100 feet in some cases and it is difficult for a bus to negotiate the bend,” he said.

There are also anxieties over payment. “This is the first time we will be dealing with the government. Payment modes will be different and we may have to wait for a few days before the cheques are cleared,” Mr. Kannan said.

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