Work order for procuring 2,000 new buses will be issued soon: Minister

From increasing the revenue of transport department to tackling the footboard travel, especially by students, the government has introduced various measures.
TN Transport Minister SS Sivasankar
TN Transport Minister SS Sivasankar

CHENNAI: From increasing the revenue of the transport department to tackling footboard travel, especially by students, the government has introduced various measures. Transport Minister SS Sivasankar said to curb footboard travel, WhatsApp groups have been formed to facilitate coordination among officials to monitor students who undertake precarious rides.

Here are the excerpts from an interview he gave to TNIE.

Transport corporations incurred a loss of Rs 14.8 crore a day. Can you elaborate on the steps taken to enhance non-operational revenues?

Tenders have been invited to build multi-storey complexes at three bus depots in Vadapalani, Vyasarpadi, and Thiruvanmiyur in the city through PPP mode. The MTC will occupy two floors, and the remaining floors will be designated for vehicle parking, restaurants and other commercial purposes. In addition, the SETC has commenced renting out luggage boxes of transportation of goods.

Instances of students hanging on to footboard of government buses have become a common sight. Can you explain the measures taken to address this?

We have identified the highly congested routes and have introduced additional services to meet the students’ demand in Chennai and other districts. Compared to last year, the instances of footboard travel have come down this year. A college in Tirunelveli had merged two shifts into one, causing a surge in demand for transportation, which resulted in students travelling on footboard for a few days.  In every district, WhatsApp groups have been formed to facilitate coordination among officials from the education, police, and transport departments to monitor this issue.

What’s the status of procurement plans for new buses ?

All the works have been completed to procure 2,000 new buses and a work order will soon be issued. In addition, paper works have commenced for purchasing new 1,500 BSIV vehicles. We are also going to purchase 500 new electric buses for Chennai, Madurai and Coimbatore.

In the past, you have announced plans of route rationalisation and increasing bus services to increase revenue. Any development on this ?  

Modernisation initiatives such as provision of passenger information systems,  cashless transactions and other works are being undertaken using the funds granted by KfW German Development Bank and other resources. These measures are part of a scheme aimed at upgrading government buses to intelligent transport systems to gather information on passengers. Once the modernisation process is completed, decisions regarding route rationalisation and optimisation will be made.

It seems there are issues such as bribery and touting persisting in RTOs. Can you outline the actions taken?

We implemented a system last year that allows the applicants to get learner’s licences, driving licence renewals and address changes without visiting RTOs. Around 3.49 lakh learner’s licences were issued through this mode. We have now extended this facility to cover additional services. To ease four-wheeler driving licence applicants’ dependency on driving schools, we have also decided to procure vehicles for conducting driving tests for every RTO. An automatic testing track will be built in 18 RTOs next year. We are making every effort to curb this problem.

What challenges are you encountering in implementing the scrapping policy ?

Tamil Nadu is the sole state in the country that operates with a fleet capacity of almost 21,000 buses. Roughly 1,500 government buses are over 15 years old and were not in use for two years during the Covid-19 lockdown. During the recent meeting in New Delhi, I requested a relaxation of 18 months before condemning them. Scrapping these buses would adversely impact bus services in rural areas. Kerala and Telangana have also sought an exemption, while other states with fewer government buses had no objection.

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