Difficulties in implementation of transport curbs to the fore

A crowded MTC bus at Padi on Saturday.  

With restrictions pertaining to transport, including operation of private and government buses with seated passengers alone, MTC officials say there are practical difficulties in properly implementing them, especially during peak hours on working days.

As the number of COVID-19 cases are increasing steadily in the State, the government reintroduced certain restrictions from Saturday. As per the new order, private and government buses plying between the districts and MTC buses running in Chennai will be operated only with seated passengers.

In each bus, the seating capacity is 44 passengers and standing capacity is 25. To enforce the restrictions, the MTC rolled out 400 more buses, especially in areas such as Chengalpattu, Guduvancheri, Tambaram, Kelambakkam, Semmenchery, Perumbakkam, Manali, Kannagi Nagar, Ambattur and Avadi. However, on the first day, despite it being a weekend, passengers were seen standing inside the buses as all the seats were occupied.

“Prior to COVID-19, 34 lakh passengers used to travel on 3,300 MTC buses a day. After the first set of restrictions kicked in, the number of passengers dropped to 21 lakh and now it is around 18 lakh. But we are operating around 2,700 to 3,000 buses every day, but it is still a challenge to restrict passengers to only 44,” an MTC official said.

He said some adjustment could be made as the buses were less crowded during regular hours. “But we cannot ask passengers to get down as it leads to altercations. To enforce restrictions properly, we need at least 2,000 additional buses. Otherwise, the government has to deploy police and transport officials at each bus stop to regulate the crowd or stagger the office hours,” said K. Arumaga Nainar, general secretary, Tamil Nadu State Transport Employees’ Federation.

M. Somasundaram, a consumer activist, said he travelled by MTC route 23C. “Crowd restrictions were not properly followed. Mask enforcement was also not done and there was no sanitiser at the entry point and buses were not sanitised. The passengers also have to behave sensibly. Checking crew should conduct random checks and ask standing passengers to alight,” he said.

Rental taxis and cabs can operate with a maximum of three passengers, apart from the driver, according to the order. Autorickshaws can carry a maximum of two passengers, apart from the driver. “It is practically difficult There are 1.10 lakh autorickshaws. This will affect families who are travelling together. Four members cannot travel in two autorickshaws,” said M. Sampath, general Secretary, All Auto Drivers’ Association.

Consumer activists and police said the government should announce restrictions for share autorickshaws also as there was no clarity on how many passengers could travel in them.

Traffic police officers said it was difficult to enforce restrictions on share autorickshaws. “It is not clear which category they come under and how many passengers can travel in them. Travelling in a congested manner can easily spread the virus and the government is silent about it,” a traffic police officer in T. Nagar said.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 1:19:30 AM |

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