Chennai, Tamil Nadu – Passengers returning to Chennai after the Pooja holidays were spared inconvenience as private omni bus operators withdrew their strike call at the eleventh hour after fruitful discussions with state government authorities.
The Tamil Nadu transport department recently cracked down on private omni buses for overcharging, penalizing over 2,000 bus owners and detaining 120 vehicles for tax violations. These actions, often occurring during late hours, posed safety concerns for passengers, and arranging alternative transportation was a daunting task.
Thirugnanam, representing the All Omni Bus Owners Association (AOBOA), had initially threatened to boycott services due to these issues. However, another faction of omni bus owners, belonging to the Tamil Nadu Omni Bus Operators’ Association, clarified that they would not join the strike, assuring that 80% of their buses would continue to serve passengers.
In response to the strike, transport authorities held discussions with bus owners in the afternoon. An agreement was reached to address their concerns, particularly regarding avoiding late-night checks and preventing vehicle detentions outside Chennai. Consequently, the strike was called off, and buses resumed their regular passenger services.
State Transport Minister S. S. Sivasankar stated that even if an insufficient number of buses were available, additional government buses were on standby to assist passengers returning to Chennai from Madurai, Trichy, Coimbatore, and Salem on the following day.
Addressing concerns about fare hikes, Thirugnanam from AOBOA clarified that the government had not fixed fares, and the extra charges collected were essential to sustain their businesses during a specific period of the year. He emphasized that the public could not expect private operators to charge the same fares as government-operated services, especially for air-conditioned multi-axle sleeper buses, which naturally incurred higher costs.
To alleviate fare-related confusion, the association plans to release its fare chart ahead of Diwali. As per the proposed chart, one-way travel from Chennai to Madurai could range from 1,930 to 3,070 rupees during Diwali. Similarly, trips to Trichy and Coimbatore may cost 1,610-2,430 and 2,050-3,310 rupees, respectively.
Nevertheless, some transportation activists argue that such fares are too high, urging the government to prevent private bus operators from exploiting passengers in this manner. The dialogue on fare regulations continues to be a vital point of discussion in the region.