While work on two stations is nearing completion, the linking of the line with St. Thomas Mount may not come through
The Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) has been plagued by problems from the beginning. But, recent developments may top them all.
The thousands of commuters travelling on the line till Velachery were hoping Southern Railway will complete the work on the next three stations that will benefit a number of neighbourhoods.
The good news is that work on two stations — Adambakkam and Puzhuthivakkam — is nearing completion. On the downside, the final phase of the project linking St. Thomas Mount may not come through. The plan for the station could be scrapped if legal wrangles surrounding land acquisition worsen and lead to further delay, sources in Southern Railway said.
The phase-II of the project, constructed on elevated tracks, passes through thickly populated residential colonies of Ullagaram-Puzhuthivakkam, Adambakkam, Vanuvampet and Nanganallur.
S. Sudarshan, a regular commuter by MRTS from Nanganallur, said it would not make sense if the line ended at Adambakkam. He said both Puzhuthivakkam and Adambakkam stations would not attract many commuters as they do not have parking and public transport facilities.
M. Harsha, a resident of Vanuvampet, said even if these stations became operational, a majority of MRTS users with vehicles would have to depend on the Velachery railway station for its easy accessibility, ample parking space and better connectivity.
At present, train services are operated seamlessly from Velachery railway station for it has track crossover facilities, which would not be there in the two stations coming up, a senior official of Southern Railway confirmed.
The commute between Chennai and Gummidipoondi should normally take close to an hour-and-a-half. In reality, thousands of commuters using the local shuttles in this segment undergo a daily ordeal because of chronic delays ranging between 30 and 40 minutes.
Unlike the Tiruvallur, Tambaram and Velachery routes where the suburban services run on dedicated lines, this 46-km line is shared by express trains to northern destinations such as Hyderabad, Delhi and Kolkata, and EMUs and freight carriers serving industrial clusters.
Commuters point out that the delay partially stems from the alignment of stations along the northern suburban line that require EMUs to slow down considerably while taking the lengthy platform lines or looplines that branch off the mainline. “For a while now, authorities have been holding loco pilots to a 15 kmph speed restriction on these looplines. This puts tremendous pressure on motormen,” said a motorman plying the route.
For instance, though the stretch between Korukkupet and Chennai Central is only 3 kms, EMUs take almost a quarter of an hour to cover the distance after the loopline speed was halved from 30 kmph, he said.
“Suburban trains are held up whenever priority is given to express trains and goods trains. On some days, we are forced to wait for more than 20 minutes. Many commuters get down and walk,” said S. Yesunesan, a commuter from Pattabiram who takes this route to work.
“Of late, unless trains from all three platforms depart, suburban trains are not allowed entry. The Railway is functioning in an odd manner and causing inconvenience to passengers," said M. Kadiresan, another passenger from Anupampettu.
In November last year, some passengers pelted stones at the loco cabin at Tiruvottiyur. In February, a group of commuters squatted on the tracks at MMC to protest the delay in the departure of a nightly local to Gummidipoondi.
Railway officials, however, said delays have been minimised in the recent past.
“There is a land acquisition hitch in laying a fourth line between Korukkupet and Ennore. The line will serve to decongest traffic on the route,” said S. Vijayakumaran, additional railway manager, Southern Railway.