Passengers who benefited from Amma canteens and packaged drinking water now want the State Government to introduce low-cost motels along the highways.
Those travelling in government-run buses are more vocal with this demand. Because most of the time the long-distance buses stop at motels either at a time not suitable for travellers or that sell food at a higher price.
G. Saravanan (67) and wife Kanagam (63) recalled that a State Express Transport Corporation (SETC) bus in which they travelled to Chennai, recently, stopped at a motel in Villupuram at 2.45pm for lunch. “It is too late for an aged couple,” they said.
Price of eatables at many motels are 50 per cent to 100 per cent higher than in other hotels. So many of the passengers who cannot afford to shell out the price are forced to remain hungry throughout the journey.
A motel owner in Villupuram district told The Hindu that he pays Rs. 1,800 a month for each bus that stops at his motels. He runs 12 motels. So the prices are increased to get the returns from passengers.
Drivers and conductors of these buses said that they should get a seal from the motel on the ticket sheet everyday and produce it before depot authorities as a proof that they stopped there.
They said that a fine is imposed on them if they do not stop the bus there. These motels pay deposits to choose the buses that should stop at their place.
TNSTC officials in Salem Divisional Office said that earlier drivers used to stop buses in hotels that extended fringe benefits to them.
“In a bid to streamline places where buses should stop the Government introduced a tender system for the hotels to participate and get the official nod to stop buses for a break,” an official said.
“The tender is floated statewide (annually) by the SETC. The highest bidder chooses buses that should stop in his motel — from April 1 to March 31. Last year the bid for a bus from Salem division towards Chennai was Rs. 50. It was increased to Rs. 60 this year. There is a similar price for motels on the way to Bangalore,” he added.
“Government-run motels will help commuters get access to quality food at a lesser price. The government can generate more revenue than the money collected from existing motels. Till then the government should streamline the time at which buses should stop, the quality of food served, and the price fixed for the same in private motels,” say passengers.