Festive occasions trigger a huge demand for transport from thousands of people travelling to their native places. The Deepavali this year, falling on October 24, is no different. Train tickets ran out within hours of the start of the booking a few months ago. Bookings are still open for the special buses to be operated by the State transport corporations.
A heavy rush of passengers is anticipated at the city bus termini and railway stations this weekend. The Transport Department has installed display boards at all bus termini to direct passengers to the designated bus bays and has opened a help desk at Koyambedu and Madhavaram. It is also making announcements about the bus services through the public address system.
At a meeting chaired by Transport Minister S.S. Sivasankar, along with Principal Secretary K. Gopal, on October 10, it was decided to operate 10,518 buses, including 4,218 special services, from the city from October 21 to 23, and 9,362 buses from various parts of the States for those returning to the city after the festival.
Mr. Sivasankar had also directed the officials to provide amenities at the termini of Koyambedu, Madhavaram, K.K. Nagar, Tambaram MEPZ and Poonamallee, from where the regular and special buses will be operated.
A control room and a round-the-clock help-desk for providing information about the bus services and receiving complaints have been opened at the Koyambedu terminus, an official said.
The Department has been increasing the number of bus services every year. But the plight of travellers without reservation remains a concern. Private omni-bus operators charge such travellers exorbitantly.
Consumer activist T. Sadagopan says that until the Department fixes standard fares for both public and private bus operators, fleecing of passengers will continue. The omni-bus operators have sustained a huge loss from the COVID-19 pandemic, but they make a killing by charging exorbitantly during festivals, he adds.
Vijayaraghavan, a resident of Cuddalore who commutes to the city, says a significant section of the population in the city comprises migrants from other parts of the State, with many of them being daily-wage earners. This section is the last to leave the city during festivals and do not have the means to book Tatkal tickets in trains. It depends more on buses. More Antyodaya trains should be operated for the unreserved passengers at least during the festivals, he says.
R. Pandiaraja, member of the Madurai division of the Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee, says the operation of more trains from Chennai to Madurai, Tirunelveli, Nagercoil, Tenkasi and Thoothukudi will help to ease passengers’ dependence on buses.