A visit to the Koyambedu bus terminus, which is hyped as Asia’s largest, will convince anyone that it is not something that attracts many transport correspondents in Chennai.

We are all used to chaos in everyday life in India, but a bus station attracts people who are completely new to the city, and the least that they expect is information. This inexpensive commodity is absent in Koyambedu. Take the case of the terminus for private or omnibus operations on the Western side, which is virtually beyond the pale of any administrative activity.
Let us say you have a ticket to take the 8.45 am Shama Sardar Volvo to Bangalore. You will reach the approach area to the CMBT Koyambedu in maybe 20 or 30 minutes from Central Chennai. But from the main gate on the Inner Ring Road to the Private Bus Stand (PBS) via Kaliamman Koil Street, it will take you another 30. Incidentally, three streams of traffic share this narrow road – buses entering the CMBT, vehicles going to the Koyambedu Vegetable and Fruit Market, and those moving to the PBS. (The Hindu recently reported that there is a plan to decongest the terminus here and there is another report on the approach road problems here which was published in a local supplement, not the main section of the newspaper.)
There is no motorable road from Inner Ring Road junction to the PBS, which is about a kilometre away. What is available is a series of patches, pits and craters, a legacy that dates back to the time the vegetable market was opened. A report published some months ago in The Hindu provides some illustration; now the pits are dry. The Chennai Metro Rail Limited is hard at work on the Koyambedu stretch here, and so you have a dusty, muddy and dangerous section to cross. If you are above 60, are infirm, sick or disabled, you are advised NOT to take a bus ride from here — you may be unable to get to the bus. Even if you are hale and hearty, the monsoon months are going to pose a Peary or Amudsen-like polar expedition challenge for you.
In the midst of this hellish landscape, expensive Volvo 8400s and 9400 buses heave and tilt past, making you think that this is some remote ungoverned part of Somalia, not the shiny, administrative paradise that the Dravidian parties extol in their speeches. Incidentally, the DMK always prides itself on building bus stands and bus shelters, never mind that these usually lack even accessible, clean toilets.
Back to the main question, you may arrive just in time for the Shama Sardar bus ride, or any other that you might have booked and the story is just the same. Maybe it is KPN or any other laissez faire bus service operating from here.
For those who say an unregulated or lightly regulated market works best, the Private Bus Stand at Koyambedu offers enough proof that it doesn’t.
If you plan to travel from here, this is what you should do:
  • Locate the bus stand on a map in advance (see the location on Google Maps here)
  • Set apart at least one hour to travel to the Private Bus Stand, more if you are in a suburb
  • If you don’t have much baggage, take an MTC bus that goes to the CMBT – it is a short walk from there to the PBS
  • Avoid bringing children, old people and disabled to this bus stand, unless you have infinite patience, plan to arrive well in advance and have a penchant for risk-taking
Good reportage would have exposed this state of affairs long ago, but that has become a scarce commodity in newspapers today. As a result, the Member-Secretary of the CMDA never loses any sleep.
Of course, the CMDA is never lacking in humour – It says of the CMBT on its website The terminal is well maintained and it has obtained ISO 9001:2000 certification. The joke is of course on people running the ISO and providing the certificate!