Friday, Jul 12, 2002
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By S. Shivakumar
During seven days from July 3, 86 buses broke down in different parts of the city. On Wednesday alone, passengers of 17 buses were stranded after the vehicles stopped due to mechanical fault. Official statistics reveal that on an average about 10 MTC buses break down everyday.
The poor condition of the buses leads to frequent breakdowns and apart from commuters who are left in the lurch, traffic snarls are caused at busy intersections.
The high profile incident of Ms. Jayalalithaa stopping over to inspect a broken down bus, while returning to her Poes Garden residence from the Secretariat last Friday, led to buoyed hopes of some remedial steps.
While broken down MTC buses on city roads is nothing new, the fact that one stopped along a VIP route earned it the attention of the Chief Minister. The point is proved by the fact that, the same day, as many as 13 MTC buses broke down, going by official figures.
Enquiries with the MTC crew reveal a disturbing picture. A driver charges that buses, which break down on arterial roads are negligible, in relation to the several buses which are not taken out of depots in the first place, because of mechanical problems. ``This leads to frequent cancellation of services which is evident from overcrowding in buses during peak hours.''
``We invariably face the wrath of the commuters in case of a break down. Though it is mandatory for us to give regular reports on the fitness status of the bus, the problems are rarely rectified. Apart from these buses stopping mid-way, the poor condition of buses poses a threat to road users and the commuters,'' a driver charged.
For the current year, MTC buses have been involved in 169 accidents including 40 fatal cases, some of them caused by the chaotic traffic but many attributable to the condition of the vehicles.
A traffic planner points out that stress should be given to the condition of the MTC buses as these vehicles make several trips. The pollution they cause, both visible and deadly, is ignored by policymakers and commuters alike, who take the line that it is a ``lesser evil'' than not having the bus at all.
Apart from commuters, crew members themselves are demanding new buses to provide better service. They want the route timings to be revised as it now takes a longer time to cover the city. It is learnt that the timings have not been reviewed for nearly 20 years now.
The poor attention given to buses costs the MTC dearly: there were 43,840 breakdowns in the year ended 2001, only marginally lower from 44,814 the previous year. Mechanical defects account for the largest number of breakdowns. Bus failure is the leading cause of loss of trips for the MTC, totalling a staggering 4.2 lakh trips in 2000-01.
Unreliability of service, caused mostly by breakdowns, has led to a sharp rise in personal transportation, causing severe congestion. Ironically, successive Transport Ministers have pleaded their inability to operate more buses, citing the congestion created by their failure to keep the buses running in the first place.
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