Footboard travel continues unchecked

Schoolchildren dangling on the footboard of a TNSTC bus on Bharathiyar Salai at Cantonment in Tiruchi.

Schoolchildren dangling on the footboard of a TNSTC bus on Bharathiyar Salai at Cantonment in Tiruchi. | Photo Credit: M. Moorthy

With schools and colleges reopening in the city, the familiar sight of students squeezing on to the footboards of buses while commuting has made a comeback too. Romanticised in movies and in viral online videos, young travellers are ignoring their safety for the sake of cheap thrills, say the authorities.

“Despite the availability of buses with full seating, passengers seem to prefer standing on the footboard rather than getting inside. Footboard travel is not only dangerous, but also deters others from hailing the bus at the next stop, because it tends to look overcrowded. We feel students are doing this just for the sake of taking selfies or impressing their friends with their daredevilry,” S. Sakthivel, General Manager,Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC), Tiruchi region, told The Hindu.

Mr. Sakthivel said that his office was engaged in a concerted campaign to deter footboard travellers, with a series of measures in the past few weeks.

“We have posted officers at the major bus stands, to survey passenger behaviour, and advise young people against footboard crowding. On eight major routes, our officers follow the buses in a separate four-wheel drive for the entire journey, to ensure that everyone travels safely. I also personally do spot checks on buses and raise awareness on safety among passengers,” said Mr. Sakthivel.

Despite the official efforts, it is still possible to see young male students jamming themselves into the footboard area with their rucksacks, say social activists. “At some colleges, especially after classes get over in the evening, buses tend to fill up very quickly. Since the frequency of the service, especially to rural suburbs has been reduced during the pandemic, children have no other option than to hang on to the window grills, because they do not want to miss the bus,” said a city resident. “In such cases, both the institution’s management and the transport authorities should draw up a common action plan to curtail rush hour traffic.”

Mr. Sakthivel said that his office had been working to ease the bus availability from outer areas to the city, as per public demand. “We have been increasing the number of buses from suburbs to Tiruchi, especially to help students and teachers get to their institutions on time. In fact, 49 extra short route buses have been introduced from points such as Viralimalai, Fathima Nagar, Pettavathalai and Pudukottai highway to take travellers directly to the Central Bus Stand, since January. There is a higher demand for buses on festivals and auspicious days; we press vehicles from other routes into service to help the public on such occasions,” he said.

The official added that the public could contact TNSTC on the WhatsApp number 9442590538 and landline 0431-2415551 for further assistance.

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2022 5:58:55 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/tiruchi/article65589007.ece