About 300 passengers were forced to cancel their bookings with Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) buses after traffic jams in the city led to delays of several hours, said officials.
With a considerable number of vehicles ferrying passengers out of the city to celebrate Diwali in their hometowns, officials said hundreds of buses were delayed from various stations in Pune as they struggled to wade their way through traffic on Pune-Ahmednagar, Pune-Solapur and Pune-Nashik routes. Several hundred passengers cancelled their pre-booked tickets due to delays in the last three days, they added.
However, officials also said that many passengers were adopting a wait-and-see approach rather than cancel their tickets and pay “double or triple the fare” to private operators.
The MSRTC’s Swargate and Shivajinagar depots had arranged 1,250 extra buses in addition to about 600 it plies daily, in order to meet the increased demand during Diwali.
However, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, passengers had to wait for an average of 3-5 hours (in some cases up to eight hours) as buses from various destinations in Marathwada, northern Maharashtra and Vidarbha struggled to reach Pune on time.
“About 200-300 passengers must have cancelled their tickets due to the delay — especially if it was for several hours. However, considering that private operators were overcharging considerably, a majority of our passengers with pre-booked journeys chose to wait instead of cancelling the tickets and taking private buses,” said a senior MSRTC official.
Passengers were also unhappy about the MSRTC’s decision to increase its fare by 10 per cent. While it has adopted the practice to increase the fare to improve earnings during festivals, the notification regarding this would be issued at least a month prior to bookings. This time around, however, due to the state Assembly polls, the decision was taken only after voting was over. This caught many travellers offguard, and they had to pay the “extra charge” during the journey.
“I had booked my ticket a month ago in Shivshahi AC bus. When I reach to board, the conductor checking the online ticket asked me to pay 10 per cent more. When I asked him about the increased fare, he said I either have to pay or will not be allowed to board. This is unfair. If they increase the fare, they have to announce it at least a week in advance,” said Prasad Uttekar, a passenger from Kolhapur.
Due to ongoing Metro work at Shivajinagar ST stand, the new ST stand has already started operations at Aarey field in Wakdewadi. Most passengers who booked their tickets online reached the stand one hour in advance. They then had to wait for two-three hours for their buses.
“The buses were delayed due to heavy traffic at Shikrapur, Nagar road and Rajgurunagar. The buses were stuck for almost 4-5 hours. Each bus has to do 2-3 trips these days. But due to heavy traffic, the buses did not reach on time. In the last three days, almost 1,200 buses were released from Shivajinagar ST stand,” said Shivajinagar depot manager Dnyaneshwar Ranavare.
An official from Pune division, MSRTC, said, “The fare has been increased from October 25 to November 5. The passengers have to pay Rs 20-80 extra for ordinary and Shivshahi. However, the fare for Shivneri and Ashwamedh services has not been increased. We are charging less than private operators. If they can pay more than Rs 1,000 to private operators, they why not us? We are reaching on time. The ST is providing better service than other (operators).”