The Sankranti season is here, and thousands of people in the two Telugu states are in a rush to get to their native homes for the festival. As bus stations fill up with passengers, highways face snarls, and train and APSRTC/TSRTC bus tickets get booked up, private travel operators have begun to take undue advantage of the situation, defying directives from transport authorities mandating that ticket prices be in line with RTC rates.
Many private buses, plying on routes across Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka, have jacked up their rates to abnormally high levels, almost at par with regular flight fares. For instance, the rate of an air-conditioned sleeper bus ticket, which is usually priced at around Rs 1,300 to travel from Hyderabad to Visakhapatnam, has gone up to as much as Rs 4,000 in some cases. The hike depends on factors including the type of bus, amenities available, travel duration, etc.
With train tickets all sold out too, last minute plans can definitely burn a hole in the pocket of the average passenger. All 540 of the special festival trains, launched across the South Central Railway (SCR) zone, were booked with a waiting list of at least 300 people. Meanwhile, the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) had announced the operation of 4,233 special buses with 10% concession on the return journey, while the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) had decided to operate 3,120 special buses with no additional fees.
Toll gates have become clogged in several locations, causing traffic snarls. Heavy rush was witnessed at the Pantangi Toll Plaza in Chautuppal Mandal of Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district between the Hyderabad-Vijayawada Highway. As per reports, an average of 35,000 to 40,000 vehicles travel at a rate of 10 vehicles per minute on the national highway in a single day.
Meanwhile, operators believe that they have to be exempted from frequent checks and penalties by authorities because the cost of maintenance and fuel charges have also gone up. â€śOur buses have been impounded, and we are being harassed. In terms of business, the last four months have been extremely dull. The government should consider a few exemptions to allow us to stay in business,â€ť a New Sai Krishna Travels operator told The Hindu.
All important travel points including the Secunderabad and Nampally Railway Stations, Jubilee Bus Station, and MGBS witnessed a heavy congestion of traffic in the wake of the Sankranti, one of the biggest festivals celebrated across a majority of south India. The roads leading to bus pickup points, including Panjagutta, Lakdikapul, Miyapur, LB nagar, Uppal, and ECIL in Hyderabad, faced continuous traffic snarls. Several videos of passengers stuck on these roads for hours have also been going viral.