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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Is attraction of Chennai Metro waning ?!?

One common feature in every city is its bustling traffic – Chennai bustles at seams. The metropolis is growing rapidly and the traffic volumes on the roads have  been increasing enormously.   There is always need for effective means of communication – Metro rail is one such initiative. It is a  rail based rapid transport system aimed at providing the people of Chennai with a fast, reliable, convenient, efficient, modern and economical mode of public transport, which is properly integrated with other forms of public and private transport including buses, sub-urban trains and MRTS.

State Govt has created a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for implementing the Chennai Metro Rail Project.  2 corridors have been proposed.  The first one running from Washermanpet to Chennai airport through – Broadway, Central, Govt Estate, Spencers, Gemini, Saidapet, Guindy…… the other running from Chennai Central to St Thomas Mount through Vepery, KMC, Aminjikarai, Shenoynagar, Thirumangalam, Koyambedu, Vadapalani.  The portions of Corridor-1 with a length of 14.3 kms. fromWashermanpet to Saidapet, and Corridor-2 with a length of 9.7 kms. from Chennai Central to Anna Nagar 2nd Avenue will be underground and the remainder elevated.

To us it is novel though, certainly not the first for the Nation.  Calcutta was the first to possess one – in Mumbai, it is Govt-Private joint-initiative and in Delhi, there are so many lines : Red line; Yellow line; Blue Line and another Airport Metro Express line, which is more sophisticated.  29th June 2015 – was a momentous day for Chennai, as its residents got a feel of metro in their own land. Chennai has local trains running from Central to Arakonam; Central to Ponneri;  Chennai Beach to Tambaram EMU line and MRTS from Beach to Velachery – thus far MRTS was far good ~this Metro line is far superior, exceeding expectations of most commuters.

A  distance of 10 Kilometers from Koyambedu to Alandur, the first phase of the much anticipated multi-crore Metro Rail chugged off with Chief Minister Ms.JJayalalithaa flagging off the inaugural service from the  state secretariat through live video.  The entire route is on an elevated structure covering a distance of 10.15 km, with stations at Alandur, Ekkathuthangal, Ashok Nagar, Vadapalani, Arumbakkam and Koyambedu besides the yard at the last stop. 

The first train having four coaches, left at 12.15 pm from Alandur to Koyambedu and was driven by A Preethi, a 28-year-old diploma holder in engineering from Government Dharmambal Polytechnic College here.The flower decked sprawling and swanky Alandur metro station, the biggest in Chennai, was brimming with activity, with enthusiastic passengers eager to board the first train.  The luxury metro train covers the stretch of 10 in just 19 minutes which includes the stoppage time at six stations. By road, when traffic is smooth, the same distance can be covered in 45 minutes. During peak hours it may get doubled.

Unlike MRTS which has lesser frequency – the service runs every 10 minutes and each train can carry upto to 1,276 passengers.  There is no comparison between Metro and other suburban services – this is an airconditioned train; stations are luxury with facilities – and the minimum fare is Rs 10; maximum fare is Rs 40.  In MRTS – ticket from Beach to VElachery costs Rs.5 and that perhaps is one of the reasons for poor maintenance.

I thought for the cosy comfort, the fare was reasonable as one would spend much more for travelling lesser distance in an auto-rickshaw. ; but this report in Times of India of date titled ‘As novelty wanes, metro patronage dips to one-third’- does not sound a happy report for the Chennai traveller. 

Times news network reports that 4 months after metro rail rolled out between Alandur and Koyambedu, average patronage has settled down at 8,000 people on weekdays and 10,000 on weekends.This is a huge dip from the 25,000 commuters it attracted every day for the first two months.As the number of joyriders dropped, Chennai Metro Rail Ltd started focusing on consolidating regular commuters. It started issuing monthly parking cards to commuters and made parking space at the Koyambedu, Arumbakkam, Ashok Nagar, Ekkattuthangal and Alandur stations. A one-month parking card for two-wheelers costs `250; the monthly card for cars is priced at `500. People can leave their vehicles overnight at the station for an additional `100 to `200.

“We had good response from commuters. Many have started buying the cards soon after it was introduced a few days ago,“ an official said. On holidays, the trains attract around 12,000 people. “We had 20,000 passengers on a recent long weekend. But the numbers have settled down. They are not as high as the 25,000 people on a weekday and 75,000 people on a weekend in July and August,“ said a senior official of metro rail. “The stations and trains are not crowded during peak hours, but we are seeing a regular clientele. We are trying to make the services attractive. The services are not a hit among commuters because it is but a short 10km stretch that does not link major hubs on 100 Feet Road. People who live and travel between Koyambedu and Alandur are regular metro users. Most people use share autos and buses on the route and for travel beyond the point covered by metro rail.

Metro rail hopes that the patronage of the line will go up when the Koyambedu-Shenoy Nagar line opens next year. This will help people travelling from Poonamallee High Road to 100 Feet Road.As the commuter numbers have settled, CMRL will soon implement measures to boost patronage. These include roping in share autos and small buses to connect the neighbourhoods around stations.

Chennai Metro is cosy comfort and a good facility and it is for the Chennai residents to useit  and ensure that it is available for longer routes and on higher frequency.  The waning away of commuters is not a good sign ~when there is less crowd, the management might think to reduce the frequency ~when frequency reduces, more will go away ! – hopefully, when the line gets extended, more commuters would come.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

13th Oct 2015.

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