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Friday, December 10, 2010

MTC Bus catches Fire

The city of chennai is quite a maze with its lanes and bylanes. First timers to Chennai whether from the rural villages or from Western world would be amazed and in some ways frightened by the traffic and the way vehicles are driven. In seemingly no space, you could see buses and heavy vehicles winding their way alongside hundreds of two wheelers and the ubiquitous three wheeled ones called autos. There is certain method in madness as these vehicle drivers let others also to pass by.

The city is quite big and has developed its metropolis vastly. There is North Chennai expanding upto Manali and South Chennai beyond Tambaram and its suburbs. There are many new colonies, clusters of houses and flats having millions living in them, and added floating population. Most of them seemingly are on the road travelling places all the time.

Apart from the suburban EMU services which services a part of the city (in fact there are services : Beach to Tambaram ; Beach to Velachery; and Central to Thiruvallur ; Central to Minjur) – there exists a well developed bus transport. Beyond these are the millions of two wheelers, thousands of cars and auto rickshaws which sometimes fleece the traveller, demanding the price of the vehicle or the sky.

Govt. operates the transport system which was established way back in 1972. The operational jurisdiction earlier was only the metropolitan area. Now there are buses going to Sriperumpudur, Kanchipuram also. There was a time when bus Corporations were named after Regional rulers, Kings and freedom fighters. The clamour for splitting the Corporation and the caste clashes ensured stoppage. The city operation was earlier popularly known as PTC (Pallavan Transport Corporation). Pallava was a dynasty of South India which ruled the northern Tamilnadu and southern Andhrapradesh with their capital at Kanchipuram. Pallavas are known for their patronage of architecture and Mahabalipuram stands tall portraying the glory of King Narasimhavarman I. PTC was split into two in 1994 and now it is Metropolitan Transport Corporation.

The route map of PP21 metropolitan bus service

The bus service largely runs on time and caters to the thronging crowds, still there are complaints from the commuters that they are not sufficient. The crowded buses and milling crowds at commuter points bear testimony to this. As has been the story of many Govt. units, this Corporation also reportedly incurs huge losses. There are suburban areas vastly underserved where students and people – young, old, disabled and others wait impatiently for hours for getting one.

The recent incessant rains threw the city out of gear and MTC had to suspend its service at some places including the stretch on Kunrathur-Sriperumbudhur route, Thazhankuppam to Chinnakuppam on Ennore route, causing hardship to commuters. The roads had become unusable with stagnant waters and flowing water in some places.

It was reported that the two day’s rain caused a loss of 1.5 crore in ticket collection alone. Poor maintenance has also been a cause of concern. Some buses are in bad shape harming the commuters.

Of late there have been some instances of buses going on fire whilst on the run. This possibly could have been caused by poor wiring / wrong electric connection / improper maintenance. A bus on deluxe service on route E 18 between High Court and Guduvancherry, went on fire near the cement road bus stop at GST road. Smoke emanated from the chassis, the driver brought the vehicle to a halt, passengers panicked and jumped out and all of them in commotion saw the bus go up in flames. It is really fortunate that all passengers could get out of the vehicle billowing smoke. It was stated that there could have been around 100 passengers inside and as it was overcrowded the bus doors had remained open.  Before a water tanker and fire tender could be pressed in, the vehicle was completely gutted and was subsequently taken to Alandur depot close by.

the gutted bus (Photo from the Hindu)

The authorities of MTC attributed it to electrical short circuit. The bus reportedly was about 3 years old and had run around 2 lakh km. The accident brought the traffic to a grinding halt adding to the woes of commuters. Passengers were shell-shocked and the concerns are high as such instances have occurred frequently in the recent past. A vestibuled bus was charred in Avadi in Nov; two other buses survived fire at Madhavaram and KK Nagar.

Safety is quite often given the go by and it would be better if the authorities and Govt. wake up before any major disaster happens.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.


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