Tamil Nadu rolls out free bus ride for kids under five years

Sources said that the move is aimed at increasing patronage for government buses severely hit by the lockdown in 2020 and 2021.

Published: 30th May 2022 05:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th May 2022 05:37 AM   |  A+A-

TNSTC

TNSTSC bus for representational purposes (File Photo | EPS)

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: Free ride for children up to the age of five came into effect in all government buses across Tamil Nadu on Sunday. Hitherto, it was allowed only for children till age three.

The revised norm will be applicable in SETC, MTC, and six corporations of TNSTC (Coimbatore, Salem, Madurai, Villupuram, Kumbakonam and Tirunelveli). The number of buses operated by the eight transport corporations is 19,500.

After Transport Minister SS Sivasankar announced the scheme in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on May 5, principal secretary K Gopal on May 27 directed the transport corporations to take steps to implement it.

Top officials of Villupuram and Salem TNSTC corporations told TNIE that depot managers have been told to allow children up to the age of five to travel free. While 50% ticket fare will be collected from children in the 5-12 age group, full fare will be applicable from the age of 13.

Currently, there is no official data on how many children use government buses. "Women who travel in ordinary buses are given a price-less ticket to account for their count and the loss incurred by the transport corporations is compensated by the government. Kids who avail of free travel, however, will not be given any ticket," the official said.

Sources said that the move is aimed at increasing patronage for government buses severely hit by the lockdown in 2020 and 2021. The patronage of government buses which stood at 2.1 crore till January 2017 dropped to 75 lakh during the pandemic.

According to a policy note, the patronage slowly increased to touch 1.5 crore as of March this year. The rise can be attributed to free travel scheme for women, transpersons and persons with disabilities in ordinary services from May 13 last year. "We hope the hike in age limit for free travel will improve patronage by at least 10 % over the next few months," the official said.

Meanwhile, the TNSTC has also permitted commuters to reserve tickets for kids below the age of five. "The minimum age for reserving a ticket will remain three. If the traveller is not willing to pay the fare for the kid (below the age of five), the child will not get a seat/berth in reserved buses of SETC and TNSTC," added the official.

S Kumaran, a bus enthusiast from Tiruvannamalai, said, "A full adult fare ticket is Rs 95 to 110 to Vellore from Chennai. Commuters who have two children at the age of four will prefer government buses over trains or omnibuses. The move will surely benefit both commuters and transport corporations."



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