CHENNAI: Intra-state bus and train services witnessed a moderate turnout when they resumed after over 175 days on Monday, while Metro train services in the city received a limited footfall on the blue line between the airport and Washermanpet.
Many commuters said they were forced to travel during the pandemic because of pressing personal or professional demands.
Invariably, all the commuters complied with the COVID-19 guidelines by wearing masks at the railway stations and bus stands. However, social distancing norms were flouted in MTC and mofussil buses operated in highly congested sections.
At Chennai Central and Egmore stations, tickets of passengers were validated through the contact-less automatic ticket verification system. Upon entering the station, passengers displayed text alerts on their mobile phones or paper tickets in front of the electronic screen installed at the stations. The tickets were verified by the railway staff viewing it through another screen on the other side. The passengers' temperatures were also tested through automatic thermal scanners installed at the stations.
On the first day, about 530 passengers boarded the Coimbatore-bound Intercity Express from Chennai Central and 370 travelled in the Tiruchy bound special train from Chennai Egmore. Only passengers with reserved tickets were allowed to travel. “Middle seats of the second seating class were left vacant to ensure social distancing,” said a railway official.
Passengers said they preferred to travel on trains because these were less congested than buses. S Shanmuga Rajendran, a Salem-based entrepreneur, said, “It would be extremely difficult to
maintain social distancing in buses. But safety guidelines won’t be violated in trains since unreserved passengers are not allowed. There is more space and fewer passengers in trains."
At MGR CMBT bus terminus, SETC and TNSTC Villupuram division resumed inter-district bus services as early as 6 am. While SETC operated over 300 buses from Chennai alone, TNSTC ran over 1000 buses. MTC operated 2374 buses.
Commuters were permitted to enter and exit the terminus only through the main entrance and the second entrance remained shut. All shops including eateries and tea shops remained shut. Commuters were provided with hand sanitisers and their temperatures were tested through thermal scanners.
Commuters whom The New Indian Express spoke to at CMBT said though they were concerned over the spread of COVID-19, they had no other option. Many said they had to meet their family members who are in distress because of the lockdown.
“I am aware it’s dangerous to travel, but I don’t have a choice,” said a 24-year-old woman who boarded the Tirunelveli bound SETC at Koyambedu. “I have been waiting for three months to support my ailing mother. I married a relative and I will stay at my home for some time."
Pichai Mani of Arumbakkam, a 42-year-old auto driver, said he was traveling to Kallakuruchi to bring his elder brother, an asthma patient, to Chennai. "There is no one to look after him in his village. He was also not given any treatment during the lockdown. Since I lost my livelihood because of COVID-19, I let him stay there. Now I'm going to take him back to Chennai."