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MTC's wear and tear woes multiply

Sandhya Soman

Incessant rain, bad roads and potholes add to the troubles of the ageing fleet



GOING GETS TOUGHER: Drivers of MTC buses are having a tough time as they have to operate the vehicles on rain-ravaged roads in the city. Photo: K. Pichumani

CHENNAI: Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) buses were perhaps the "unsung heroes" amid all the flooding and downpour in Chennai.

But there is another side to the story. The MTC is bracing to spend more time and double the expenditure to get its fleet back into shape.

"It will take at least Rs. 1,000 per bus to change the engine oil, grease and overhaul the wheels," said a senior MTC official. Some of the buses, especially those running on Poonamallee High Road, have broken footboards and punctured tyres after negotiating numerous potholes. According to the official, nearly 2,200 of the total 2,554 buses have suffered damage, especially those from Perambur, Madhavaram, Vyasarpadi, Alandur, Tiruvotriyur and Ennore depots.

Maintenance costs

Besides spiralling maintenance costs, the Corporation has to meet the demand for spare headlights, wipers and tyres. "There are no spares for wipers and headlights at the depots. How are we supposed to drive vehicles at night," asks a driver.

In the past week, the situation, especially for buses plying on the Maduravoyal bypass and Poonamallee High Road, has worsened. They have to contend with bad roads and fight for space with container lorries that are now allowed during daytime. "At least one or two buses in the 27C series running on this stretch get damaged daily," says a driver. Besides, daily wage drivers employed by the Corporation do not bother to get repairs done. According to workers, lack of proper maintenance during the rainy season could lead to serious damage later. But what heightened MTC's monsoon woes was the number of `old' vehicles in the fleet.

"Out of the 1,800 buses on the roads, there are nearly 560 vehicles that have completed five years or run six lakh km. They should replace more buses to avoid breakdowns, says A.P. Anbazhagan, general secretary, Tamil Nadu State Transport Employees Federation.

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