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If you are a user of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) buses, have you been pleasantly surprised of late to pay just Rs.2 for a trip? The number of ordinary services in the MTC fleet has suddenly gone up since August 1.
While the number of ordinary services was 649 when the present government came to power on May 31, 2006, it remained static for the past four years. On August 1, 2010, it rose to 698. Speaking to The Hindu, Transport Minister K. N. Nehru, said “A certain percentage of ‘M' services has been converted to ordinary service.”
K. Natarajan, general secretary of the Labour Progressive Front union of MTC employees, says that from August 1, “certain number” of buses in all 25 depots in the city have been diverted to ply as ordinary services.
M. Kasi Raju, a frequent commuter and employee of IIT-Madras, says: “Certain routes such as M51H (Saidapet to Tambaram via Velachery) are being operated as ordinary service since August 1. It seems like a pre-election stunt. The actual issue is not being addressed. No bus should skip any stop on the route.”
According to the detailed project report for purchase of buses under the JNNURM scheme, M service and LSS buses “skip low-patronage bus stops”. In effect, if those skipped bus stops are not served by an adequate number of ordinary service buses, commuters have no option but to use deluxe buses.
Mr. Kasi Raju says that the idea of deluxe service has become redundant as such buses too are over-crowded because of the limited number of services in certain bus stops. M service used to be the mini-bus service of the 1970s and 1980s. Such buses connected the then developing areas to railway stations and bus terminals. But currently, M service is the money-spinner for the corporation. The minimum ticket in ordinary service is Rs.2.
While M service tickets are issued at flat rates (Rs. 3,4,5,6,7) with one-rupee increments, Limited Stop Service (LSS) tickets cost 50 paise over ordinary fares for each stage and deluxe buses charge double the LSS fares.
During the last fare revision which came into effect on December 6, 2001, the fleet was classified into Ordinary, LSS (limited stop service), Express, Deluxe and M Service buses.
Change in board colour
Since ordinary and M service buses are the same, the board describing the route has just been changed on certain buses from green to white since August 1. “According to government norms, about 40 per cent of the fleet must be operated as ordinary service to cater for economically weaker sections,” Mr. Natarajan says, adding
“Some of the buses which were unofficially being operated as M service have been modified.”
Currently, a little more than 20 per cent of the fleet strength is operated as ordinary service.
A senior official of the MTC said that instructions have been given to maintain a minimum number of ordinary services in the fleet.
The official added that the idea behind operating M services was to reduce commuting time by skipping certain bus stops.
“While the average number of stages for ordinary service is about 27, it is only 17 for M service.”