Over 50 lakh people commute in the 3,600 buses that the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) operates every day. And a majority of them have a common grouse — the poor maintenance of the vehicles.
An MTC bus in perfect condition is a rare sight. Broken glass panes, loose seats, torn seat covers, rickety railings, rusty interiors and exteriors, poor braking system and a litter-strewn passageway — that’s a typical MTC bus for you.
The buses have to be maintained on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. This is especially vital for city buses as the clutch, brake and gear are used more frequently due to heavy traffic. “Engine oil, battery, lights, brakes and gear system have to be checked on a daily basis and logs must be maintained. But this rarely happens,” said K. Natarajan, general secretary of MTC Employees Progressive Union.
Sources in the MTC said the main reason for the poor maintenance of buses was the lack of manpower. “Ideally, there should be staff strength of 2,000 or more to maintain 3,600 buses. But there are just 1,500 persons for the job,” said Natarajan.
He said the MTC was short of welders, liners and other technicians too. “The low-floor buses can be checked only after they are placed on a ramp. But there is no such facility at the overcrowded depots. Over 200 buses are parked in a depot meant to handle 100 buses. Many vehicles park on the road or in nearby termini,” said Natarajan.
Sources said a majority of MTC buses operated at just 35 per cent of their braking efficiency, as against a requirement of 75 per cent. New buses will not last three years if they are not properly maintained. The lifespan of a bus is five years.
“The braking system gets worn out due to overloading. A bus must carry only 75 passengers. But, each of our vehicles ferries nearly 200 commuters,” he said.
Conductors often receive complaints on dirty bus floors from commuters. “The cleaning of buses was handed to contractors. But, the work is never done properly,” said a conductor.
Many commuters also wondered if the MTC buses underwent regular fitness tests at the regional transport offices. T. Ravikumar, president, All India Rail and Bus Passengers Association, said half the buses in the fleet would not pass the test. “Only vehicles that are in perfect condition should be allowed to ply on the roads,” he said.