SETC also saw a 40% dip in passenger footfall, says official
The patronage for private omni buses has been lower this Deepavali festival when compared to previous years, with the occupancy ratio being only around 60%, say bus operators. Similarly, patronage was poor for the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) and State Express Transport Corporation (SETC) buses, say officials.
R. Muthusamy, president of Madurai Omni Bus Owners Association, says that while usually around 120 private omni buses operate from Madurai, only around 30 buses were being operated currently, in the wake of the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. “Although a limited number of buses are plying, only up to 60% of seats are filled in most of the buses as customer patronage has been lower this Deepavali festival,” he says.
While most bus operators had initially doubled the ticket fare for Sunday and Monday, some operators started reducing the ticket fare from Sunday afternoon due to poor patronage, says M. Bala, an agent.
With Chennai being one of the major bus routes for omni buses, the current practice of working from home for employees of Information Technology companies in Chennai, has been the major reason for low demand for omni buses, says A. Mydeen Basha, a bus operator. “The closure of colleges and other educational institutions has also affected the passenger footfall. The movement of tourists has also drastically reduced after the spread of COVID-19 pandemic,” he says.
Many people are travelling to other districts by private vehicles including cars and two-wheelers, says A. Sundara Pandian, a bus operator. “COVID-19 safety precautions like complete disinfection of buses before the commencement and end of each trip, usage of face masks by passengers and providing sanitisers to the passengers are strictly followed. But, people are still scared to travel in buses,” he says. The spending capacity of people has also reduced due to the financial distress caused by COVID-19 pandemic, he adds.
Although, the government had issued guidelines instructing that buses must operate with only 50% occupancy, the bus operators try to completely fill the buses to cover the expenses, says Mr. Muthusamy. “While the government has not announced any subsidies for the bus operators, it becomes difficult to operate buses with 50% occupancy ratio. But, most buses have only up to 60% occupancy ratio,” he adds.
Sources from the transport department say that the TNSTC and SETC buses were also being operated with nearly 100% occupancy ratio.
A senior official from the SETC says that a total of 58 buses was being operated between Madurai and Chennai. There has been at least a 40% dip in passenger footfall when compared to previous years, he says.
However, patronage for city buses had increased because of the Deepavali festival, says a TNSTC official. “Many people travelled from rural parts to the core city area for their Deepavali shopping,” he says.
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