The recent hike in bus fares has forced people to look for cheaper options for their transport needs, leaving the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) poorer in the city. The beneficiary in this case has been Southern Railway, as Chennai seems to have rediscovered the suburban rail network post the bus fare hike.
After the fare hike there has been a drastic reduction in the number of commuters using MTC buses. While the MTC officials are able to confirm a reduction in commuter population, particularly in the deluxe buses, they insist that this trend is temporary, and they will be back to usual patronage soon.
A senior official of the State Transport department said there has always been a temporary reduction in the usage pattern as the natural fallout of a bus fare revision. However, in the past, it has always come back to usual levels in a few months’ time.
Trains to the rescue
A senior official of Southern Railway said the suburban trains on all the four sections have seen more travellers, with the Chennai Beach-Tambaram section recording the highest numbers, both in daily travel tickets and season tickets. Similarly the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) was also seeing a good jump in season ticket sales.
The Southern Railway, operating more than 700 suburban train services, has been able to attract almost eight lakh new commuters, earning a revenue of almost ₹2 crore, within a span of seven days from January 20 to 26. A senior official of the Chennai division said both season and daily tickets are seeing good number of increases even after the MTC reduced the bus fare by ₹1.
To travel from Tambaram in the southern suburb to T.Nagar, a distance of about 21 km, on the suburban train network, a round trip will cost ₹10, whereas a commuter who takes a deluxe bus will have to shell out anything between ₹40 – ₹50 for the same round trip. Thus, taking the train seems to guarantee savings for the commuter, especially in longer haul journeys.
Though MTC officials have been claiming they have increased the number of ordinary services with the lowest fares, commuters say they do not see any evidence of this on the field. According to them, only Express and Deluxe services continue to dominate the bus network. Residents in the city have also been complaining about the bunching of services, especially with ordinary bus services, as well as increase in cut services during non-peak hours, forcing commuters to use additional services. A unified ticketing system for bus travel has also been a long pending demand. M. Suresh, a resident of Perumbakkam near Medavakkam, said to reach his work place in Broadway via Velachery he has to take at least two or three buses and has to spend in the range of ₹45 to ₹50 per trip.
He has been able to save money by switching over to MRTS, he claimed. He has only looked at MRTS because of the bus fare hike, he admitted.