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Wide open doors of new ‘deluxe’ buses perilous

S. Sundar
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TNSTC finds closed doors a factor for revenue loss: CITU

Hydraulic doors of low-floor deluxe buses of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) have been rendered defunct for months now.

The doors, operated by drivers at bus stops, were designed to ensure safety of the passengers. Doors in almost all the buses were seen kept open permanently. In many buses, they were seen tied to the seats or prevented from closing with latches or with stones. “Many a time, we could not use the doors due to mechanical faults. The oil is not changed and spare parts are not available to set them right. And slowly, they have become defunct for ever,” said one of the drivers.

A total of 300 low-floor buses were introduced in 2008 in the city with financial assistance under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. These buses brought with them a steep increase in the bus fare which was widely opposed. The rise was justified by the administration with the claim that the buses had the safety feature of hydraulic doors. The doors were closed before the buses moved after a halt in a bus stop. And they were opened only after the buses halted at the stops. This prevented the passengers from perilously dangling on the footboard. More importantly, it prevented people from boarding into or alighting from a running bus, another crew member added.

“But, the management had never encouraged the drivers to use the doors, because the closed doors were seen as a major factor for revenue loss for the corporation” said V. Pitchai, retired TNSTC employee and secretary of Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU) Madurai urban unit.

Punitive action has been taken against the drivers and the conductors for various failures such as not halting at bus stops and for not being punctual. “But, not even once in my 35 years of service, any action was taken against the crew for overloading of buses,” Mr. Pitchai added.

Overloading of passengers beyond the sitting and standing capacities of the buses was a violation under Motor Vehicle Act and also seen as an act of misconduct under the TNSTC’s standing order, he added.

Revenue vs. safety

“This showed that the management is more interested raking in revenue than in the safety of passengers. Leave alone closing of the doors.” The CITU is contemplating to implead itself in the case pertaining to the death of four footboard travellers in Chennai pending before the High Court, he added.

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