Virudhunagar residents feel new bus stand was built in the wrong place

A group waits on the left side of the four-lane road opposite the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) depot here to board a bus to go to Coimbatore.

Likewise, several commuters get down from a bus on the right side of the road near the Collectorate complex here and cross the four-lane to reach their offices. Strangers to this town are perplexed to witness these sights since embarking or disembarking from buses on the four-lane road is not only an offence but also a risk.

It does not mean that there are no bus stands in the town. In fact, there are two bus stands – one for ‘town buses’ to go to nearby villages or towns and the other for buses proceeding to distant cities.

Even several long-distance buses seldom go to this bus stand under the pretext that they are ‘bypass riders.’ Yet they have no qualms about taking a detour to enter Tirumangalam to pick up passengers.

Drivers of many of these buses treat the new bus stand only as a bus stop. So the new bus stand always wears a deserted look. The situation is worse at night.

A resident says that this bus stand should not have been constructed on the southern side of the town. For, most of the residents go to cities like Madurai, Tiruchi or Chennai on the northern side for all their needs.

A.Madasamy, a booking clerk at the new bus stand, says only two Tamil Nadu State Express Transport Corporation (TNSETC) buses originate from this bus stand to Chennai. An express bus from Sivakasi to Chennai comes here to accommodate 20 passengers.

Another TNSETC bus from Papanasam to Tirupati and one from Tirunelveli to Bangalore come here with a quota of five passengers.

Except for these five services, there is no bus service with reservation facility from here to any other destination.

Efforts made

Of course, efforts were made now and then to alleviate the woes of bus passengers.

The first District Collector L.N.Vijaya Ragavan in 1985 mooted the idea of annexing an adjacent area for its expansion, but the council that came into existence subsequently did not accept the proposal.

So, on October 8, 1989, the then Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi laid the foundation stone for a new bus stand and it was declared open by the then Local Administration Minister Azhagu Thirunavukarasu on May 3, 1992. It was renovated with cement concrete flooring in 2006.

When K.N.Nehru was the Transport Minister, there was a move to shift the STC depot and the adjacent TANFED to the new bus stand, and the new bus stand to the STC depot so that the new bus stand would be on the northern side and closer to the four-lane road. But fund crunch faced by the municipality led to the dropping of this proposal.

Former MLA K.K.S.S.Ramachandran sought the help of some Muslim leaders and got their lands for expansion of the old bus stand. This too did not materialise. Former Municipal Chairperson Karthika suggested construction of a third bus stand near the four-lane road but there were no takers for this idea.

It was left to the previous Collector K.Balaji to ensure that all buses crossing Virudhunagar enter the new bus stand. But his transfer from the district in a year brought things back to square one.

S.Murugan, General Manager, TNSTC, Tirunelveli Division, admits that ‘bypass rider’ buses of his division skip the new bus stand but their number is small (84 up and down) compared to 334 (up and down) non-bypass rider buses going to the new bus stand.

“We advise the crew to go to the new bus stand. In case of violation of this order, we take severe action against the crew,” he said.

Mr.Murugesan says all buses coming from South go to Tirumangalam and it cannot be skipped on the way Madurai Mattuthavani bus stand (on the eastern side) as several passengers whose houses are located in the central and western parts of Madurai prefer to get down at Tirumangalam so that they can save some money and reach their houses fast.

Those who want to go to cities like Coimbatore, Erode and Salem also prefer to get down at Tirumangalam since there is no point in going all the way to Mattuthavani bus stand before they proceed to Arapalayam bus stand to board buses for those places.

Buses going from north to south also treat Tirumangalam as a major transit point for the same logic.

Shuttle services needed

P.Mohamed Saleem, General Manager, TNSTC, Virudhunagar Division, also echoes the point. All Madurai to Sivakasi and Madurai to Koilpatti buses go to the old bus stand but there are very few shuttle bus services between Madurai and Virudhunagar, he adds.

Karuppasamy, Regional Transport Officer, Virudhunagar, says traffic rules do not permit halting of vehicles on four-lane for any reason. Most of the accidents on the four-lane have taken place only when vehicles are parked on the roadside.

If drivers want to halt their vehicles on a four-lane for refreshment, they can do so near a tea stall or hotel which is near a service lane. However, in case of a breakdown, halting of a vehicle on four-lane is unavoidable.

The TNSTC authorities and the traffic police should ensure that buses do not halt on four-lane either near the TNSTC depot or near the Collectorate complex by diverting them on service lanes before the Regional Transport Authority steps in, Mr.Karuppasamy says, adding a concerted effort is necessary.