Now that a new government has assumed office in the State, the question that many residents of the city seem to be asking is: Will the Chennai Metro Rail project be pursued at the same pace and meet the deadline?

The previous AIADMK government (2001-06) had preferred a monorail-based mass transit system for the city. Though the State Government had made a mention of the Metro Rail in the 2005-06 budget and had estimated the project to cost Rs.5,086 crore, eventually the project was dropped in favour of monorail.

The proposal was to build a 300-km long monorail network in the city. It would consist of 18 corridors and was slated to be completed by 2011. If it had been built, the network would have been the largest monorail system anywhere in the world.

The Chennai Metro Rail project is financed by three entities. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is funding a little over 60 per cent of the project cost of Rs.14,600 crore, and the Central and State governments which contribute about 20 per cent each.

The State government has already released 50 per cent of its allocation. Besides, most of the tenders have been awarded for the 45-km long Phase-I of the metro rail project. In essence, at least Phase-I has been “committed”, officials say. In the meantime, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has been assigned to prepare a feasibility report for a further three Metro corridors as part of Phase-II by January, 2012.

Small lacuna

In order to ensure continuity, a senior Chennai Metro Rail Limited official said that the new government will have to address a “small lacuna in Metro governance”. CMRL's board of directors consists of 10 members – five each from the Central and State governments. Apart from the Managing Director, four other secretaries from various departments ranging from Finance to Municipal Administration and Water Supply are State government nominees.

The official said that since the officers are likely to be changed in case of a bureaucratic reshuffle, there is a need to include technical directors from within CMRL's organisational structure in the board to ensure that “work goes on”. Both Bangalore and Delhi follow this approach, with five and two technical directors in their respective boards.

He points to the example of the Kolkata Metro where the Managing Director retired and work has been “in the doldrums” for the past four months. There is a need to “reconstitute the board” as there are likely to be problems of technical nature daily during the construction phase, the official added.

S.K. Lohia, officer on special duty (Urban Transport), Ministry of Urban Development, who is part of the CMRL board, said that the Union government was aware of the views regarding the structure of the board. “There is no change at present. The project will go ahead and we will continue to work based on written proposals from the new government,” he said.

H.M. Shivanand Swamy, executive director of the Centre for Excellence in Urban Planning at CEPT University, who is part of the Ahmedabad Metro planning committee, said that transport will play a key role in India's expanding cities and Metro networks must be in place as early as possible.

More In: Chennai