It has been a week since the Bus Fares were hiked in Tamil Nadu. The hike has been substantial – 40-60% across all categories of buses. The worst part has been that short distance fare have short up by almost 100% as MTC (Chennai’s Bus operator) has increased the no. of stages… Earlier where you could travel about 2-3KM on the base fare, now it is applicable for the 1st stop/1KM only. A trip from Metha Nagar Bus Stop on Nelson Manickam Road to College Road used to cost Rs.7/- previously on delux buses, now it costs Rs.13/-. Hike has affected the short distance commuters more by the increase in the no. of stages of fare calculation.
In my opinion Fare hike was necessary for a viable public transport system. I hope that the undesired & hidden rise in fares that public saw in the past few years, in terms of reduced buses running on normal fares & more of delux & express buses running on all route but with all the stops of an ordinary bus, will make way for a more organised transport system with marked difference in the bus services based on types – atleast 40% as ordinary services and the rest a combination of LSS, Express, Delux & AC services.
Over the past 5 years all the long distance buses have been converted as Express Services so that they could charge extra. However they used to stop at all the stops, in fact the no. of stops have increased with more towns/villages en route making the buses stop in their places also. A trip to Tiruvannamalai from Chennai on Express Bus about 5 years back used to take 3.5Hrs with the bus stopping at only 2 places after Tambaram. Then out of the 120 odd services in a day we had express services every half hour/ on the hour. This made the service very popular for travelers going all the way to Tiruvannamalai. Today all the services in the day are run as Express Buses with no ordinary or LSS or even PP services. And the time taken has increased to 4.5Hrs to 5Hrs. Express Buses now stop at all the places that Ordinary Buses used to stop, making the travel worse for end-to-end travelers.
If the Government restores the structured bus services and increases the no. of buses then I believe this Bus Fare Hike is well justified.
On the long-distance buses, Government can introduce high-end buses that compete with omni-buses, considering the margin that omni-buses make and the demand for such services, Government can easily make money from such services which can be utilised to introduce more lower fare buses. Trains from Chennai to rest of Tamil Nadu do not cover even a part of the total passenger demand, most of the demand is met by private omni-bus operators who charge on the higher side (some times exorbitant rates). Government should think on this aspect and work towards improving bus services.
PS: AC Buses are more empty now. 219A buses from Ambattur to Kelambakkam used to be jam-packed are now free with few passengers standing… impact of fare hike