South-bound buses and trains find fewer takers
CHENNAI: The economic slowdown and job losses on account of the pandemic appears to have dampened the spirit of Pongal festival, one of the biggest celebrated in the State. A day before Bhogi festival, Koyambedu CMBT bus terminus, which usually draws thousands heading home witnessed a moderate crowd.
Buses and trains which left Chennai to various parts of the State on Tuesday filled up just minutes before departure. Although buses are allowed to run with 100 per cent occupancy, government buses operated with 70 to 80 per cent occupancy on Wednesday.
Hundreds of train tickets were available in festival special trains operated from Chennai to Madurai and other Southern destinations. Interestingly, private omni buses which collect 200 to 300 per cent higher fares during festival seasons, increased ticket prices only by 20 to 25 per cent. Some private bus companies offered tickets to Madurai and Tirunelveli at prices lesser than train fare.
“Buses to Kancheepuram, Vellore, Arani, Tiruvannamalai, Hosur and other northern districts have been running with full capacity. But the demand for Southern districts plunged by 50 per cent,” said a senior transport official.
After Covid relaxations, students and working professionals from outside have not returned to Chennai, resulting in SETC and private omni buses taking a huge hit. “Ticket prices of omni buses increased only from January 12. Till then, commuters were charged 75 per cent of the fares.
While per-day ticket collection have drastically fallen, operational cost, fuel expenses and toll fee remain the same. The fares have not been increased,” said an office-bearer of the Omni Bus Operators Association. According to official data, about 3.7 lakh commuters travelled in government buses between Monday and Wednesday.