Around 8.45 a.m. on Tuesday, a group of passengers boarded a State Express Transport Corporation (SETC) bus to Srirangam from platform 6 at the Chennai Moffusil Bus Terminus (CMBT).
They walked on a green carpet to their respective push-back seats. A few minutes later, they were taken by surprise when a uniformed staffer extended menu cards and asked for their choice of food.
Last week, the State government rolled out two SETC buses with pantry and toilet facilities. These buses are part of a pilot project and more airconditioned buses with similar facilities will be rolled out in the future. Currently, the two buses ply to Srirangam.
Passengers need simply push a button above their seats and the pantry staff will walk over to find out what they need. “We have heard about similar facilities in aircrafts. This is wonderful,” said S. Pushpavalli, who was on her way to meet her mother in Srirangam.
The toilet too is modelled on those in aeroplanes. The flushing works on air compression. “We have installed a 150-litre tank for collecting the waste. It will be disposed off at the depots. There will be no stench in the bus,” said an SETC official.
The bus also has a microwave oven, a tea-maker and a mini refrigerator.
“There are three options for breakfast and dinner priced at Rs. 15 each and three varieties of rice for lunch costing Rs. 20 each. Once the commuters state their preferences, the same will be communicated to our official in Perungalathur and the food will be loaded once the vehicle reaches the stop,” said the official.
The amenities are a boon to diabetics and the elderly, said commuters. “I brought food from home and heated it up in the microwave. The toilet is an added advantage for a diabetic like me,” said Dhinakaran, who frequently travels to the city, on work, from Tiruchi.
Mythili Suresh said she was relieved commuters would no longer have to step out in the middle of nowhere to look for toilets. “But the only concern is that the toilet is in the rear of the bus and it may get a little bumpy,” she said.
Commuters also expressed concerns over the maintenance of the facilities. Senior SETC officials said they had formed a team to clean the toilets and maintain the amenities in good condition.