“Anna Bus Stand was a cauldron of emotions and a constant hub of activity. Business would thrive here and there would be no space to sit and chat. Just the rumble of buses and chatter among passengers,” says U. Rajendran, a local business owner, recalling the good old days. A veteran in this area, Mr. Rajendran, fondly recounts the times when the bus stand was actually in use.
Anna Bus Stand, which was established in the 1980s, has shown the way to many towns and cities, including Tiruchi, Ramanathapuram, Rameswaram, Sivaganga, Kaliyarkoil and Chennai, in the past.
Most buses heading to northern parts of Tamil Nadu would halt at this seminal bus stand, Mr. Rajendran says. The situation changed when the State government established the integrated Mattuthavani bus stand in 1999. “Buses to major cities would stop here and only mofussil buses made their way out of this space,” Mr. Rajendran says.
With diminishing importance given to Anna Bus Stand, the space today stands as a halt-and-go spot for vehicles heading to places like Karupatti, Samanatham, Sholavandan and Vilachery. The bus stand, which is now half its size, after the establishment of Government Rajaji Hospital’s Trauma Care Centre in 2011, is barely utilised.
S. Rajendran, a commuter heading to Karupatti, says that the bus stand is barely clean and most shutters are closed because of the lack of business. “The toilet at the bus stand stinks but they charge us ₹5 for use, making it unfair,” he says. A tourist help centre and a breastfeeding centre established by the State government lie under lock and key. Waste food is seen lying around in various corners and there are barely any dustbins visible. According to M. Kannan, who owned a flower shop near Anna Bus Stand for nearly 20 years now, says that the problem today arises from the bus stop established on Panagal Road outside the bus stand. Buses barely make their way inside the bus stand as there is little space to take a U-turn and head back onto Panagal Road.
“What is worse is the large number of share autos that line up outside the bus stop, causing traffic hold up till Sivaganga Road. There is no clarity on which vehicle is headed where. It is the cause of several accidents and the nearby roundabout does not serve any purpose,” he says.
Buses tend to stop outside on Panagal Road opposite the Tiruvalluvar statue, an important point of reference in the city. The junction is seminal as the Collectorate and GRH are located about 100 metres from here. The junction has also been witness to several protests and demonstrations. Without proper plans to redirect traffic in this area, Mr. Kannan says that peak hours particularly become tough to deal with.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Arun Balagopalan says that majority of traffic snarls at the Tiruvalluvar statue junction are caused by inflow of vehicles from the Collectorate road, parking problems outside the GRH and the narrow road leading to Aavin junction.
S. Sampath, State joint secretary, Tamil Nadu Transport Staff Federation, says that the space can be better utilised if there is area provided for halting buses. “It will be useful for drivers and commuters,” he says.
“It is becoming difficult for bus stands like Periyar and Arapalayam to station a sizeable number of buses because of the expanding number of vehicles. Anna Bus Stand was an important terminus that connected Tirunagar, Tirupparankundram, Avaniapuram and Airport. But, today, all bus stands are suffering from neglect,” he says. He adds that putting the space into use by routing buses through it and connecting it to Panagal Road by knocking down the bus stop outside will be useful.
Mr. Kannan says that this will also help in reducing the inflow of traffic on the main road as share autos will no longer choke it. “The government can also create a separate bay for these autos to ply so that buses can ply parallelly,” he says.
Mr. Arun Balagopalan says that establishing proper pedestrian pathways, relaying parts of Panagal Road and connecting Anna Bus Stand to Panagal Road will provide relief to traffic in this area. “We also need to identify a separate auto stand,” he says.