With the bus strike entering the seventh day today, suburban trains have come to rescue of lakhs of Chennaiites. Over 6.2 lakh additional passengers, especially office-goers and students, had used suburban rail services in the last five days.
The number keeps increasing every day, even as striking government transport employees have stuck to their demand of higher wage revision.
The additional traffic had resulted in extra income of nearly ₹50 lakh for the Southern Railway (SR), according to sources.
Over one lakh employees from various government transport undertakings, including Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation, Metropolitan Transport Corporation and State Express Transport Corporation, are on strike from January 4 night. They are demanding 2.57 times increase in wages while the State government offered a 2.41-2.44 times rise, which was rejected by the union representatives. To meet the extra rush, SR added 30 services in the suburban section to nearly 700 services daily. “We are now running up to the maximum capacity and reached the optimal level in services,” said sources.
The services are Chennai Beach-Tambaram-Chengalpattu section, Chennai Beach/Chennai Central- Tiruvallur-Arakkonam section; Gummidipoondi-Chennai Central while the MRTS is between Chennai Beach and Velachery.Additional services
In the past, SR had run additional services during natural calamities like Vardah cyclone and floods, and also during cricket matches. However, never in the past, services had extended this long, said an SR official.
“There is heavy rush in suburban trains. However, I do not have a choice,” said G Sriram, a resident of Chromepet, who usually travels daily by bus to his office in Parrys Corner but is now forced to take the train in the last five days.
Even during peak hours, there will be space to travel in the ladies compartment in MRTS. However, now , there is hardly any space to stand, said S Idhumathi, a resident of Triplicane and software professional working in Ascendas IT park in Taramani.
In view of the bus strike, SR had to even cancel line blocks planned in Chennai-Thiruvallur, Chennai-Gudur and Chennai Beach-Velachery sections on January 6 to provide uninterrupted train services to passengers. This is one of the rare instances where a planned event had to be cancelled to help commuters, the official said.
Thousands of passengers across Tamil Nadu, particularly office-goers and students, were badly impacted by the bus strike. This resulted in huge demand for cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber, even as autorickshaw drivers made quick money by over-charging passengers.
The State government had roped in the services of long-distance private buses (mofussil buses) to operate in some key routes in the city. “It is very cramped and not airy,” said 75-year-old Lakshmi Narasimhan, who is used to regular MTC bus travel and took a ride to Saidapet in one of the mofussil buses.
Truck drivers have also been deployedto ply government buses. However, passengers are unhappy as drivers are unaware of the routes and often skip bus stops.