What a transition?

The Tamil Nadu State Express Transport Corporation, which was earlier called Thiruvalluvar Transport Corporation, is a Tamil Nadu State Government undertaking responsible for operating "Express" services both within the state and across state boundaries.

In the initial days, Tamil Nadu had seperate transport corporations for each district, and had individual name - the Corporation which ran buses in Coimbatore was called Cheran Transport Corporation, the one in Erode was Jeeva Transport Corporation, and so on. Similarly, long distance bus services in Tamil Nadu was exclusive to Thiruvalluvar Transport Corporation (TTC). The district corporations were given rights to operate only short distances. 

The monopoly of TTC was broken when the then Chief Minister inaugurated the Puratchi Thalaivi J. Jayalalitha Transport Corporation (JJTC) sometime in the 1991-1996 period. It was perhaps for the first time in India that a chief minister spent state money to run a transport corporation in his/her own name. The government changed in 1996, and the new Chief Minister (and the current incumbent) M.K.Karunanidhi renamed JJTC to "Rajiv Gandhi Transport Corporation" (RGTC). 

TTC operated predominantly express long distance services, while the RGTC concentrated on luxury services. Sometime in mid-2007, the government decided to drop "different" names for each corporation, and decided to replace them with a central name - the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation. TTC took up the name "State Express Transport Corporation (Tamil Nadu) Limited". TTC was called SETC Division-I, while RGTC was called SETC Division-II. 

Division 1 mainly operated Inter-state, and Division-2 ran intra-state. Some time in 2000, the two divisions were merged together and renamed as State Express Transport Corporation Limited (SETC Limited). This corporation always had the goodwill of being a well-maintained, well-run corporation. Their buses were always well maintained, and had an impeccable service quality. They were a preferred mode of transport, and people from other states use to look at SETC jealously.

The service quality, and maintenance standards started dipping some time after the two divisions were merged. Sometime later, the district companies were given rights to compete with SETC on long distance routes. There began the downfall of SETC. Poorly maintained buses, irresponsible staff and uncompetitive service sent passengers to other corporations, including ones from other states. 

No upgraded services were offered by SETC for a long time, and the maximum facility that SETC offered was a push-back seat and a Video player! Air suspension was too advanced for the corporation!

This is how an "old-aged" SETC looked like - such buses still run on various routes :-(

These rustbuckets are about light green in colour, and have an absolutely run-down body. They still have the old "spring" type of Push back seats and lack air-suspension. They charge "Semi-Deluxe" fares in these services which is about 32 paise per kilometre. Video Coach buses charge about 38 paise per kilometre. The maintenance standards are poor by any stretch of imagination, however have a good presence on most routes they operate on. 

Some time in early 2006 came the first upgraded bus service. By this time, even the poorer transport corporation in the neighbouring station - Kerala had services like Volvo and Airbuses! Tamil Nadu introduced the first Air-Bus in May 2006 in the Madurai-Chennai Route. Most of the routes which had super-deluxe buses earlier now have the "Ultra-Deluxe" buses.  These buses have 39 to 44 seats, and are mostly powered by Leyland engines.

This is the "Ultra-Deluxe" bus service operated by SETC.

Bodies for these buses are built by Prakash (Bangalore), Irizar-TVS (Karur) and some were built by JCBL (in Punjab). These buses also have Video players, and push-back seats. These services took the bus sector in TN by storm, and hit private operators badly. TNSTC (the district corporations) also started operating such buses, and they started making a hit at SETCs revenues. Poor maintenance, and staff with a typical government attitude started pulling the corporation backwards. Services offered by TNSTC, however, are quite popular. SETC too is considered by many as a last resort!

Perhaps, this is the only state-run corporation which still does not operate volvo buses in this part of the country. They did not even have AC buses! The first AC bus was introduced in January this year (2008). [Infact, the poor neighbour - Kerala had AC buses since 2005!!!].

Although many were hopeful of them purchasing Volvo buses, they turned out normal AC buses instead! The first service came in January. The first route, perhaps, was Chennai-Bangalore. SETC did make a ripple as usual with those AC buses, and it is too early to say if the ripple continues! District Corporations too were permitted to operate AC buses.

An SETC AC Bus...

The bodies of these buses are built by Prakash in Bangalore, and have 44 seats. They are built on Ashok Leyland chassis, and have Air-Suspension. These service, reportedly, have good public response.

As of today, SETC operates 89 services to Bangalore, of which 10 are AC services, and 76 are Ultra-Deluxe services. They also have reservation facility. 

SETC introduced a few new buses recently - they are new models altogether!!! Here are some snapshots...

This is perhaps the first lot of buses from Veera Coach... 

This is a new model Irizar-TVS bus... earlier buses from Irizar looked similar to the buses from Prakash.

This is the latest model from Prakash... (expect better images soon)

Hope, SETC goes back to what it was in the late 80s and the early 90s - the pride of the state, and held a special place in passengers' minds! Let the golden years come back!!!

Here are some images from SETC... just a request: in case you like to reuse the images, please do credit them back here.... 


venu said…
great! I have decided to read your blog regularly. Highly readable and informative.
Just one trivia. Why didn't you use teh tamil words for their services? An attraction to me was the tamil word for AC services Kulukulu perunthu.How?
Binai K Sankar said…
good suggestion... the AC service is called "Kulir Saadhana Sokusu Perunthu" (Or that is what I managed reading!)
Your article on SETC is too good. I have a point to note, that SETC is charging economically compared to Omni services. Chennai - Coimbatore Costs on KPN Rs. 450/- NonAC while SETC Operate same service for 275/-. This is another reason for popularity.

The only draw back are those buses are controled for 60kmph. This has to be removed. (TNSTC UD buses have no such limitations).

Inspite of going for Volvo A/c, Leyland A/c is economical and performically Superb for South India. That is enough I think.

Anyway, keep updating.. thank you
Binai K Sankar said…
Hello Satheesh, thanks for your compliments...

Regarding the leyland AC point, the Volvos are far more comfortable and faster than a Leyland - Although the Leyland is more 'economical', the Volvo saves a lot of time for passengers!
Unknown said…
we welcome the ac government buses by our setc&tnstc department.in that salem is one of the big city in tamil nadu but ther is no ac buses operated here so please take action to introduce the ac buses from salem
Imms said…
Hi Binai,
I've to appreciate you for your efforts on this blog... You reported that Ultra Deluxe bus was introduced b/w Chennai & Madurai. I dont think so... It is b/w Trichy & Chennai. Later they introduced on Trivandrum and Bglr routes.Then only Madurai got it. As well those buses having 36 seats only and they do not in the range of 39 to 44. As u mentioned the AC Coaches have 44.