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Who cares about bus-footboard travellers?

Vivek Narayanan
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Broken doors, crowded buses, infrequent service and lax monitoring by officials — is the MTC listening?

It may come as no shock to city residents that 17 persons died and 51 suffered injuries due to footboard travelling in 2012.

Commuters blame it on lack of supervision by authorities along bus routes.

After the death of four students who were travelling on the footboard of an MTC bus on Monday, the focus has shifted, once again, to safety during MTC commute.

Of MTC’s total fleet strength of 3,637 buses, only 1,874 have automatic doors. And in many of those, the doors do not function properly. A rough survey on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning showed buses on routes 21G, A51, 23C, 27H and 47D plying with doors open.

T.K. Pandian, a quality assurance expert in logistics, said two automatic doors are mandatory for deluxe buses. “If the doors are maintained properly, the number of footboard-related accidents can be reduced by half,” he said.

The maintenance of MTC buses is carried out on contract basis, an official said. “But it is not done properly and often, spare parts for broken doors are not available,” he said.

The police said they continue to crack down on footboard travel but the practice continues. And so does the blame game between commuters and MTC. Buses of the transport corporation have been involved in a total of 315 fatal and non-fatal accidents, so far, in 2012.

“Two or more buses plying on the same route arrive at a bus stop together and often try to overtake each other. Commuters rush to board the least-crowded vehicle and come in the way of oncoming vehicles. This can easily lead to accidents,” said S. Gunaseelan, a regular commuter on route 27D.

Such incidents can be avoided if MTC officials are present at important bus stops, say experts. “Some years ago, traffic managers would track buses, study routes and the time taken by drivers to reach destinations. A detailed report would then be submitted to the planning department after taking in commuters’ needs and concerns. MTC should revive the process,” an official said.

Commuters also blamed inaction on the part of ticket inspectors. “Earlier, MTC officials would monitor frequency and quality of service at bus stops. Now, checking inspectors are concerned about tickets alone. Officials should keep a tab on bus timings and discourage bunching (arrival of two or more buses on a route at the same time),” said K.S. Ragunath, a commuter on 21G bus route.

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