NH traffic adds hours to Chennaiites’ Pongal travel

Special buses, which usually run up to 12 am, were extended till 5 am on Sunday to accommodate the passengers stranded at the termini.
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes onlyPhoto | Express

CHENNAI: Motorists and travellers from Chennai hoping to celebrate Pongal in their hometowns spent nearly five hours more on the roads or at bus stands as the Chennai-Tiruchy National Highway, the preferred exit route from the city to over 22 districts, witnessed massive vehicular congestion on Saturday. The drive to Tiruchy, for instance, took up to 13 hours against the usual seven to eight hours.

Meanwhile scores of people were forced to wait for four to six hours at the termini for the arrival of buses making return trips, also forcing drivers, conductors, and other transport staff to extend their shifts beyond 20 hours to ensure commuters were not stranded. Special buses, which usually run up to 12 am, were extended till 5 am on Sunday to accommodate the passengers stranded at the termini.

A transport official attributed the delay not only to vehicular congestion but also to traffic diversions on the NH for bridge repair work near Tiruchy. The sudden operation of Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) buses (104C cut) from Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT) in Koyambedu to Kilambakkam Kalaignar Centenary Bus Terminus (KCBT) through Chennai bypass further added to the chaos. Despite the bypass being in use for over 23 years, MTC buses were prohibited as the fully-fenced 32-km stretch has no bus stop en-route, said traffic police personnel.

Spl buses, scheduled services face 4-hr delay

According to a transport department statement, a record-breaking 2,200 special buses were in operation on a single day and 4.5 lakh people took government buses from January 12 to 13. Infuriated by the delay, commuters got into frequent arguments with the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) staff at the terminals while waiting overnight. “With the assistance of our staff, we operated additional special buses to ferry stranded commuters. We have informed the government about the congestion and necessary alternatives will be explored,” an official said.

On Saturday evening, a large number of MTC buses were operated to KCBT via Chennai bypass, facilitating the boarding of State Express Transport Corporation (SETC) buses from the terminus. Additionally, special services, cars, and other vehicles entered GS T Road at Vandalur via Outer Ring Road. The convergence of vehicles from ORR and Chennai bypass at Vandalur and Tambaram respectively brought vehicular movement to a standstill on GS T Road.

Due to the congestion, return trips of buses from the districts to Chennai were also delayed, causing a four-hour delay to the schedule of services, including those of special buses. Thus, both unreserved and reserved commuters had to wait on the platforms of CMBT and KCBT, all through the night.

Government buses bound for Tiruchy, Madurai, Tirunelveli, and Nagercoil districts from Chennai were trapped on the road. The congestion extended for over 25 km in Tambaram-Tiruchy NH, causing traffic jams from Perungalathur to Madurantakam for several hours.

Apassenger, A Anand of Mandaveli, said he and his family reached CMBT around 6 pm but they had to wait till 1.30 am to board a bus to Samayanallur. “Officials informed that buses were yet to return to CMBT and advised reserving tickets in advance,” he added. SETC buses, bound to southern districts from KCBT, for reserved ticket holders were also delayed by two to three hours, said another passenger, S Rajendran of Tambaram.

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