In a city that is increasingly drawing tourists and has residents going to explore other places during vacation, the entry and exit points such as the airport, railway station and bus terminuses are abuzz with round-the-clock activity.
While each of these points sees a marked increase in number of visitors or passengers, whether there are enough facilities to cater to the seasonal rush remains a crucial question.
A few hours in the morning spent at the airport and the scenes witnessed point to the lack of adequate facilities for passengers.
The otherwise busy Chennai airport was less crowded on Friday morning, probably due to the strike called by a section of pilots belonging to the national carrier, Air India. The airport receives 35,000 passengers daily. But there is something about the organised chaos at the alighting point, where there is a steady flow of vehicles.
6.30 a.m.: The constant honking of cars would not allow a man give one last hug to his daughter as he hurriedly unloads the baggage from the booti. Thanks to the delay in the much-awaited airport expansion project, there is disorder. However, much is reduced with the security and the ‘hovering' impound van that makes announcements.
“The guidelines given to us state that 90 seconds is the dropping time for four-wheelers,” says one of the private security personnel.
Jayashree Prakash's 75-year-old-mother-in-law does not look happy after alighting. One of the persons accompanying them has gone to fetch the wheel chair.
“Wheel chairs should be provided at the alighting point like the baggage trolley. I am glad we started to the airport early,” says Ms. Prakash, a resident of Adambakam, after making the senior citizen sit on a small parapet wall. A staff member of Air India says they get 40 requests daily for wheel chairs.
7.30 a.m.: Seating arrangement for passengers is abysmal at the departure area. The four-inch wall surrounding the Airport Manager's cabin has passengers jostling for every inch of space. “My next flight is at 11 a.m. and I have been here for two hours. Seating arrangement should be provided for long distance travellers,” suggests P. Sathiyamurthy, who came from Muscat and is waiting to take another flight to Tiruchi. While some are resting on the trolleys, a few senior citizens were sitting on the floor.
The delay in completing the project within the stipulated time has led to inconvenience for people, acknowledged AAI officials.
8 a.m.: The wait for those in the exit lobby gets uneasy with the sun getting bright, some standing holding placards. There is no water dispenser or cooler. Another problem is with regard to car parking.
The Airports Authority of India could have taken up the construction of bridge in front of the terminal buildings in a phased manner, which would have provided more space, say passengers.
Instead, the AAI begun the construction of both the building and the bridge simultaneously. Reservation of space for government vehicles added to the confusion.
An officer observed that work on the multi-level car parking on the city side is yet to begin. The parking capacity at the airport is insufficient and if the buildings are commissioned before the completion of multi-level car parking, the situation will worsen. The AAI is also planning to introduce a four level security system to scan the baggage.
9 a.m.: The milling vehicles slowly thin down but in a few hours they are ready for the next rush and the travails continue.
Only 50 per cent of the general construction work has been completed at both the new domestic and international terminal buildings, say sources in the AAI.
Interior plans, flow patterns of passengers and safety and security requirements have not been finalised.
Similarly, the information technology system for the building is not yet decided, which is crucial for commencement of various technical works such as display boards and announcement of arrival and departure of flights, a senior officer said.
What they say
Sanjay Arora, Additional Commissioner of Police (Law & Order)
The vacation season poses two challenges for us. One is the problem of increase in movement to and from major entry/exit points of the city. The second is the number of locked houses and the associated risk of burglaries. We have increased physical patrolling across the city and deployed additional personnel at CMBT. We have also intensified checks on ex-convicts and known thieves who operate in crowded places.
S. Anantharaman, Divisional Railway Manager
During the summer vacation, average passenger inflow into Chennai Central and Egmore stations increase by 25 per cent. We have deployed additional wardens to speed-up the turnaround time of trains once they arrive at the station. With regard to medical emergencies, basic medication is available at all Passenger Facilitation Centres. Railway doctors in Chennai division also attend to about 50 cases every day on an average, most of them inside trains.
V. Mahadevan, a frequent air traveller
Because of the current expansion there are certain difficulties that passengers have to go through. With constant change in drop and pick up points, no one is sure and certain as to exit through which gate and to meet friends, relatives or the taxi pick up. I hope that these are temporary roadblocks and will be sorted out soon.