From eating spots on expressway for illegal halts

It is a good idea to carry food in a lunchbox if you are travelling between the city and Mumbai in an MSRTC bus. Most drivers of these buses accept cuts from unauthorised dhabas and roadside hotels on the Expressway to halt at these places, which often serve the worst quality food and do not have even basic amenities like clean toilets.

The MSRTC has a list of specified hotels or dhabas where buses should halt. On the way to Mumbai, the official spot for a halt is Food Hub, while on the journey to the city, it is Bikaner.

Nothing official about it: MSRTC buses at Centre Point in Lonavla. The food joint is not an authorised halting spot for ST buses. Pic/Vishal Suresh

But most drivers of Asiad or Shivaneri Volvo buses violate the MSRTC norms and halt at unofficial spots like Centre Point, Lonavla, and other small hotels near Panvel and Talegaon. These hotels are not up to the mark and commuters have to suffer the bad condition of toilets and poor quality of food at these places.

“I travel to Mumbai almost three times a week. On most occasions, Shivaneri buses take a halt at Centre Point near Lonavla, which is not on the Expressway,” Urmila Nimbalkar said. “For that, the bus goes on the old highway and by taking a complete U-turn it reaches Central Point, which takes additional time during the journey. During peak hours, the Shivaneri gets stuck in the traffic on the old highway. Another problem is that this hotel only provides chaat items and snacks and not a proper meal. Food quality is not up to the mark and, moreover, toilets are also in a bad condition.”

Sources said that Centre Point gives Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 to the bus driver and conductor for each halt. Usha Ranade (71) said: “I came in an ST bus and found that they halt at small malls where the washrooms are really in a bad state. As a senior citizen I feel that at least the place where the bus halts should have good washrooms.”

Deodatt Shastry, who is into logistics marketing, said that whenever he travels by Volvo, the bus only sometimes halts at Food Hub, while most often the halt is taken at a small food centre after Talegaon where “the food is poor and the washrooms are very bad”.

A stall vendor said: “There is a proper commission system for these MSRTC bus drivers and conductors. Some hotels have established different types of stalls like bhel, coconut water, corn and wada-pav. If a bus takes a halt in this type of hotel, the collective business will be a minimum of Rs 4,000. So all stall owners collectively give 5 to 10 per cent of their share of the total turnover. We call this percentage a cut. If we don’t pay the cut, that specific bus will not take a halt next time at our place.”

Pune Divisional Controller, MSRTC, Ashok Jadhav said: “All the halting spots or hotels are specified by MSRTC officials in Mumbai. The MSRTC is directly getting monthly commission from these hotels and drivers cannot take a halt by taking bribes. We have been taking action against such drivers and conductors. A driver can get suspended or transferred for such an act.” 

Where to complain
Commuters can complain to MSRTC against drivers who halt at unauthorised spots on the TPO department mobile number 9822074438. “We will take immediate action,” Pune Divisional Controller, MSRTC, Ashok Jadhav said.

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