Sans new buses, TNSTC toils to cope with rising demand

Experts have told TNIE that Chennai requires an additional 2,000 buses to meet its growing demand.
A total of 1,500 TNSTC buses which were more than 15 years old were taken out of service on April 1 | express
A total of 1,500 TNSTC buses which were more than 15 years old were taken out of service on April 1 | express

CHENNAI:   The rising demand and constant wear and tear of buses has led to a decline in the efficiency and reliability of public transportation in the state over the past few years. Making the situation even grimmer is the delay in procuring new buses coupled with the withdrawal of old ones from service.

Experts have told TNIE that Chennai requires an additional 2,000 buses to meet its growing demand. As of now, MTC manages to operate only 2,700 buses a day, despite having a fleet of 3,200 buses, serving nearly 28 lakh passengers. The four-year delay in procuring new buses and shortage of bus crew has led to the cancellation of 2,500 buses since 2019, while 1,500 buses that were more than 15 years old were taken out of service on April 1. The fleet capacity of eight transport corporations currently stands at 19,500.

The procurement was delayed for the past few years owing to pending litigation in the Madras High Court by disability rights groups. Following the court order, 702 low-floor buses are being procured.  “Procurement of 4,182 new buses and renovation of 1,500 buses are in different stages of completion. We will start rolling out 500 renovated buses from November this year, and all the buses will be put into operation by August next year,” Phanindra Reddy, transport department secretary, told TNIE. Among them, 2,166 diesel buses are being procured using funds from the German Bank (KfW). 

Another issue affecting the revenue stream is the fare. The state transport corporations are making a loss of Rs 14.2 crore daily, according to official sources. The last time fares were increased was in January 2018 when the price of diesel was Rs 63 per litre. Although fuel prices have increased by 50% over the years, and currently at Rs 94.24 per litre, the fares still remain the same.

Due to the financial crunch, they have not recruited new drivers or conductors since 2018, leading to the withdrawal of services on many routes. Official sources said the appointment of temporary conductors and drivers has been completed in SETC, Kumbakonam TNSTC and MTC. 

The daily patronage of eight transport corporations, which stood at 1.75 crores in 2018, had dipped to 75 lakhs during the lockdown in 2020. However, it has bounced back as even government schemes, like free bus service to women, persons with disabilities, and transpersons in ordinary services, helped in enhancing patronage. “Currently, our per-day loss stands at Rs 14.2 crore. We carry 1.5 crore commuters a day and are planning to increase it to 1.55 to 1.6 crore soon,” added Reddy.

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