MTC rarely runs exclusive services even as women seek safe transport options
The backbone of public transport in Chennai city, Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) has only skeletal services to offer when it comes to ‘ladies’ special’ buses. This is significant at a time when women passengers are seeking more such services with student clashes in buses becoming common.
The ladies’ special buses were first flagged off in the late ’60s to transport women college students. The service bore a red and white board and the buses, painted red, featured on numerous occasions on the silver screen.
Today, the number of college-going and working women has increased but the number of MTC ladies’ special buses has dwindled. College student Ananthi Jayaram recalled seeing such buses only in the Tamil movies. “I have been travelling to my college and back every day by bus for over a year now but I haven’t seen a single ladies’ special bus till now,” added the first-year B.A student.
Sources with the MTC depots say that there are 16 ladies’ special buses on record but only one or two services actually ply. “Route number 18 A from Tambaram to Broadway is the only surviving ladies’ special in the city,” said a senior driver attached to the Vadapalani depot.
The lack of ladies’ specials during rush hours is a boon for van operators transporting working women and share autorickshaws. “I remember ladies’ special buses 20 years ago. The experience was pleasant and we felt safe. Today, we often feel afraid, especially if unruly college students are on the bus,” said Padmavathi, a retired State government employee from Egmore.
A retired MTC official said that in the late 60’s, when ladies’ special buses were started, the MTC had a fleet strength of around 600 buses. Senior MTC officials said that even today, buses function as ladies’ specials during peak hours on routes where women’s colleges are located. “But it is only a one-way service. While returning, it will be a regular service,” said the official.
The officials complained that women do not use the women special buses. “Most of the time, the buses go empty,” added the official.