Chennai

A view from the upper deck

It was the summer of 1953, and Madras was following an exciting new trail. This move had to be celebrated in the glare of media spotlight. That’s how presspersons from all known publications landed up for the launch of what The Hindu reported as ‘a half-decker’, entirely made in Madras.

In England, half-deckers are meant for special trips. In Madras, they would be subjected to the grind of everyday transport. The trial bus was created and executed at the Government Coach-building Factory in Chromepet. Costing less and being capable of accommodating more people than any comparable model, it seemed to have met its objectives.

The half-decker was spectacular; but it was only in mid-August 1965, exactly 50 years ago, that double-deckers seemed likely to cover more ground in Madras.

The state transport authorities felt conditions were ripe for introducing double-deckers in the city. Overhead wires for tram services had been removed. Many roads were ready for widening work. A resourceful local automobile manufacturing company had come on board. As everything seemed to be in place, a deadline was set – 1967-68.

The deadline was missed by two years. In April, 1969, an express double-decker bus – actually, a half-decker of sorts – made its maiden trip, and subsequent ones, not on city roads, but on the Madras-Tiruchi route. It was only in June 1970, that Madras’ real romance with double-deckers began. An “articulated” double-decker bus, based on a tractor-trailer model, with a passenger capacity, was gifted to the city. An Ashok Leyland ‘Comet’ tractor and a Mahindra Owen trailer chasis went into the making of this bus, whose body was built by Bombay-based Jayanand Khira and Company.

In 1975, double-deckers began to pick up greater momentum as the Pallavan Transport Corporation (PTC) realised that plying just the tractor-trailor double-decker served no meaningful purpose. It signed up with Ashok Leyland for a chassis and with a company from Bombay for body-building services. In the years that followed, double-decker services were successfully introduced on many routes, including the 11-A route (Theagaraya Nagar to Parrys).

However, despite enthralling commuters, double-deckers did not stay on city roads for as long as expected. They however made a comeback to what had become Chennai in January 1997, plying on the A18 route from Vandalur to Broadway. These buses were welcomed back in a flattering manner, with trees on their routes being diligently trimmed to ensure them a hassle-free journey.

Unfortunately, another end, this time threatening to be final, loomed large over these behemoths. The difficulty of manoeuvring the buses in the city traffic, getting unwieldy by the day, was cited as a reason. And the end came in September 2008. But, these buses are hardly forgotten: they are part of the rich tapestry we call Madras.


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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 6:50:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/upper-deck-buses-in-madras/article7553001.ece

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