Only around 20% of omni buses started plying from Tiruchi on Friday. While some operators claimed that there was poor demand, many others said they were awaiting a government decision on their plea to waive road tax for April-September period in view of the suspension of bus services due to the pandemic.
A few buses to Chennai and Madurai left from the Omni Bus Stand which had seen no passenger footfall since the lockdown was imposed as a preventive measure against COVID-19. “We have made announcements in the media about resumption of bus services, the passengers will come. We expect total resumption by upcoming Navaratri season,” said R. Balakrishnan, president, Tiruchi Omni Bus Operators Association. While footfall was low, many queries and bookings had been made, he said.
For buses which did ply, only 60% occupancy was allowed as per the Standard Operating Procedures. Sanitisers were to be made available, while bus operators must ensure that passengers wear face masks throughout the duration of the trip. “Buses are sanitised before and after a trip. Pillows and light blankets will not be given. Passengers can bring their own, if necessary. Curtains and blinds have been removed,” Mr. Balakrishnan said.
However, a section of bus operators said that they would not start operations till the pending road tax was waived off. “The road tax comes up to ₹4 lakh per bus. We cannot afford to pay it as we were out of business for over half-a-year. We hope the government decides to waive it off soon,” said Abdul Sathar of Magic Travels.