A new landmark

IF THE relocation of the vegetable market put Koyambedu on the city map, the recent shifting of moffusil bus services has confirmed its ascent to downtown status. The sharp rise in land prices is an indication of its new image. Realtors say the run-up is as high as Rs. 6 lakhs per ground.

Property owners in Koyambedu are not the only ones smiling. Commuters around the city are smiling too. Especially those who use Anna Salai. Town planners say the shifting will make for a more balanced growth of the city. Be that as it may, one does not have to cite such salutary effects while preparing a defence of the Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT). Take a stroll around the terminus, then, you will realise CMBT is its own defence. Seen from the Inner Ring Road, it has a picture-postcard loveliness to it. Step in and its loveliness grows on you. The waiting hall, with its maintenance-free granite flooring, is commodious. The parabolic curve dome is a vigorously imaginative accomplishment... all the structures are picture-perfect. But with any place, structures relate only half the story, and services, the other half. Are the services as good as the structures?

Stationed near the platform zone are five wheelchairs, donated last week by the Koyambedu branch of the State Bank of India for the benefit of elderly passengers. Interestingly, a passenger, Shahul Hamid from Dr. Subburayan Road, had on November 20 written in the suggestions book that wheel chairs should be provided for the aged.

Akilan is one of the many security guards at the terminus. Some of them move around in plain clothes. "There are altogether 96 security guards who patrol the terminus round-the-clock," says K. Shanker, manager-operations, Universal Services, which provides security services for CMBT. "The idea is to prevent incidents of chain-snatching and other crimes."

The early days have passed off incident-free. The only problems encountered so far have been the presence of "recalcitrant drunkards who sleep within the premises and refuse to scram when ordered to" and hawkers. "The terminus is off-limits for them. When hawkers are found peddling their wares, they are promptly turned away," says Shanker.

Universal Services provides conservancy services too. "There are 107 conservancy workers who are hard at scrubbing and cleaning the place. The Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority wants the place to be maintained on par with international standards," says Shanker.

A new landmark

Hotel Easwari Bhavan (in the waiting hall) is an indispensable help. It also offers a takeaway. Many hurried passengers order a parcel or two for the road. Hot Chips has also set up shop. Since it is located close to the platforms, it enables passengers to have a quick bite before boarding the bus.

The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is another service-provider. It has installed 16 pre-payment type phones around the terminus.

There are help booths too. And the staff there are too willing to help, when approached. Parking services are provided by the Business Leader (India) Pvt. Ltd. A parking duration of five hours comes with a charge of Rs. 5 for four-wheelers, Rs. 3 for two-wheelers and Rs. 2 for cycles.

Going by the appearance, one concludes that the parking must be sufficient to meet the demand at all times of the day. But when you talk to Babu, Executive Director, Business Leader Pvt. Ltd., you learn that the story is different "quite often".

"We are trying to assess the amount of vehicle inflow - at normal times and on special occasions. There are times when the space is insufficient. Friday, Saturday and Sunday leave us flying on our toes. Last month, when people made a beeline to the Thiruvannamalai temple on account of the Karthigai Deepam festival, the inrush of commuters here was mind-boggling. On the positive side, the CMDA has promised to allocate more space if need be," says Babu.

"There are people who commute to places like Kancheepuram every day. They park their vehicles on a regular basis. We are planning to introduce a pass system for them, whereby they will be provided concessions," he says.

"There are also people who park their vehicles for three to four days on end when they go to places like Aarakonnam, Vellore and Tirupati. Till now, only two-wheelers are parked for such long durations. If cars are also parked for such time, then we would have a problem on our hands."

Some may dismiss the CMBT as an "unnecessary extravagance". But that should be nothing. Because, for every such snide remark, a hundred encomiums are being showered on "Asia's largest bus terminus".

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