As a commuter and a critic, Liffy Thomas brings balance to analysis of the MRTS line

From the ground floor of the MRTS station at Chintadripet, I hear the shrill cry of an approaching train. With the escalator not working yet again, I hurry up the stairs. The effort goes in vain. It is 6 p.m., and I now wait for the next train to Velachery.

The trains arrive on the dot. But this is rush hour, when they can be unpredictable. It is worse in morning from 8.45a.m. to 10 a.m., when they seem to follow a rather whimsical time-table.

“If announcements are made about delays, passengers can decide if they want to wait or take a bus or any other alternative mode of transport,” says Mahesh Kumar, who is travelling to Thirumayilai.

As I wait, I scan the station. On platform 2, I see a note on the water cooler saying the appliance was last cleaned on 13/07/2013. But it appears to be out of action: its tap is bone dry. A waiting commuter is carrying a water bottle. “My work involves field work. Sometimes, when I get to the station exhausted, I am disappointed to find the drinking water taps dry. I have now begun to carry water,” says K. Padmini, an employed in a public sector firm.

The train trundles in. Inside, I notice posters that make a slew of announcements, from work-from-home offers to real estate deals. A note on the women’s helpline number is almost lost in this array of commercial messages.

The Chepauk station is marked by a riot of graffiti. At Thiruvallikeni, the yellow display board of the first class compartment lies in a state of neglect. A short distance away lies the torn skeletal structure of the train timetable board. The Light House station is rather dim; the majority of the tube lights don’t work. In all of these stations, the pay and use toilets are locked. Why built them, when you are not going to put them to use.

At Thirumalai station, commuters are wary of getting out through the rear exit, because doing so gets them staring into the maws of goats and buffaloes. Most passengers find the stench emanating from these animals, extremely overpowering.

At Thirumalai and Mandaveli stations, passengers complain of the absence of a train fare list.

As I disembark from the train and walk towards home, I cannot help thinking how the journey could have been better.

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