Stating that people should not compare the prices of private and public buses, Tamil Nadu Transport Minister SS Sivasankar on Tuesday insisted that stakeholders have been asked not to hike the ticket prices during the festive season.
The transport minister was chairing a meeting with Omni bus owners in Chennai, amid reports of private buses overcharging customers, especially during the festive season.
In August, several bus commuters had complained to the Transport Department that Omni buses in the state were charging exorbitantly during long weekends. They claimed that due to fewer government buses during the festive season, they are left with no option but to take Omni buses and pay them the price the bus operator demands.
Addressing reporters on Tuesday, Sivasankar said they have suggested private bus owners to maintain a standard ticket rate.
“We didn’t increase the fare for government buses in the last two years despite the hurdles such as the pandemic and the diesel hike by the Centre. We continued to offer our services to the public. For private Omni bus owners, it is a business. They have placed their constraints and it is wrong to compare the prices of government and private buses,” the minister said.
“We have issued directions to Omni bus owners to fix ticket rates that don’t affect the public… They informed us that they will have a discussion with other private bus owners’ associations and arrive at a decision in a day or two,” he added.
Asked why the government cannot fix a rate for Omni buses, Sivasankar said the latter is a ‘contract carriage’ offering contract-based service and it has informed the government that it is able to achieve full capacity for all its buses only during festive season.
The minister said only 1,400 Omni buses are currently operating in the state, compared to 3,000 before the pandemic. He said those who had complained about the price hike were few as majority of the passengers had booked tickets knowing the high price. He added that this issue does not affect poor people as they tend to travel in government buses.
Earlier, while speaking to indianexpress.com, A Anbalagan, general secretary of All Omnibus owners and operators association, said dynamic fare pricing has been in practice in all modes of transport and private bus operators cannot be blamed.
“While the government provides only two types of buses — AC and non AC, we have several varieties like Volvo AC/ non AC sleeper, semi-sleeper, multi-axle semi-sleeper, among others. So the price differs from one facility to another. The maintenance price of Omni buses is far higher than government buses and hence the operators fix the price accordingly,” he had said.