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Technology has raised the bar...

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Tamil Nadu was among the earliest states to nationalise road transport. Through these 47 years, the state has built a fleet of 24,264 busses that offered 2684 scheduled services at the end of March 2015. The eight State Transport Undertakings (STUs) are spread over seven regions plus one exclusively offering express services. Together these operate at 90.21 lakh km per day. 144,818 staff, man the operations.

 

TN has the lowest fare…

Thanks to continuous induction of new buses, the average age of the fleet was 5.83 years in March 2015. With the focus on fuel efficiency, average mileage had increased to 5.25 km per litre.

Dr T Prabhakara Rao, Principal Secretary, Department of Transport, referred to other salient features such as bus fares in the state being the lowest and the cheapest in India. While other STUs revised the fares more frequently, Tamil Nadu has resisted increasing the fares after 18 November 2011. This despite the steep hike in fuel prices (that account for 34.3 per cent of total costs) and significant increase in employee costs’ which took 46.1 per cent of total, said Rao.

 

Chennai will have common ticketing system...

Rao referred to the large share of private vehicles that contribute to severe congestion on roads and to high costs of commuting: “in Chennai we have 14 lakh four-wheelers and 35 lakh two-wheelers. These form a very high use  of private vehicles for commuter traffic. We need to shift such traffic to public transport.  (For metro population of around 50 lakh, this indeed is large). The construction of the metro rail and the proposal to set up Chennai Unified Metropolitan Traffic Authority would coordinate the services of the metro rail, the MRTS, MTC and vehicles like maxis, cabs, etc. We would also introduce common ticketing across these different modes that would contribute to economies and ease of travel.  The software is ready,” said Rao.

“The high incidence of traffic accidents is a matter of concern,” said Rao. There is thus the focus on improving the quality of driver training and inculcating safety and health concerns.  There is a focus on improving roads signage and traffic movement in accident-prone areas along with stricter enforcement of regulation.

 

Only STU that runs engineering, medical and polytechnic colleges…

Almost four decades ago, the government set up the Institute of Road Transport (IRT) with the objective of researching on traffic, transportation, road safety, transport management, quality control,... as also to provide refresher training for employees of STUs and general public. IRT runs Heavy

Vehicle Driver Training (HVDT) schools at Gummudipoondi, Tiruchi and fifteen other places as also two light motor vehicle private training centres. IRT also conducts skill upgradation training programmes. Rao referred to setting up an international driving research and training institute at the IRT city campus at a cost of Rs 15 crore.

Another unique initiative of the state relates to the Institute of Road and Transport Technology set up in Erode district for the children of employees of STUs. Over 8400 have graduated from this institute. These include post-graduates. The annual intake is 528 students.

IRT also set up, at Perundurai, a medical college with attached hospital in 1986 for the benefit of the employees of STUs. So far 1311 doctors have come out of this institute. Besides IRT also runs polytechnic colleges that offer diplomas in engineering for 700 every year.

Computerised test tracks ...

“We are trying to computerise driver testing systems. We will have sensors in test tracks, connected to the control room. This would help analyse driving skills in larger numbers and in quick time,  said Rao.

The buses of Chennai provide a stark contrast to the old dilapidated buses in several other large cities, Rao provided a reason for this contrast - better funding, management and technology.

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