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Updated: November 21, 2011 02:59 IST

Chugging with commuters packed like sardines

Liffy Thomas
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The suburban EMU service may be crowded, but is one of the most preferred mode of public transport for women. A scene at Chromepet station.
Photo: A. Muralitharan
The suburban EMU service may be crowded, but is one of the most preferred mode of public transport for women. A scene at Chromepet station.

Increased frequency, more exit points for overbridges and use of the third track are some demands of passengers

Even at 9 p.m. on any working day, the crowd at most stations on the Chennai Beach-Tambaram EMU section refuses to thin down. It is worse during the rush hour (9 a.m. – 10.30 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. – 7.30 p.m.) when almost every inch of the platforms is occupied. For decades, the suburban EMU service has been the lifeline for thousands of people. Though the passenger volume on this network is growing by at least eight per cent every year, the facilities available for the users leaves much to be desired. Shobana Jai Kumar, a software professional shuttles between Guindy and Tambaram every day. Her concerns are many. “I manage to get a seat in Tambaram but getting down at Guindy is a struggle. On Guindy foot overbridge at rush hour, you are only moving with the crowd,” says Shobana on how dangerous it can be.

‘The top 3'

Nungambakkam, Chromepet and St. Thomas Mount are the most crowded stations. Regular passengers have got used to it, but want the EMU services' frequency to be increased and better amenities provided as the popularity of these lines is only bound to increase further. Beach station is filthy with not many dust bins in sight. The serpentine queue at the booking counter adds to the confusion for people alighting from the train.

In Egmore, the foot overbridge leading to Gandhi Irwin Road needs more exit points and the staircase is narrow. Passengers at Pallavaram railway station say the steps are in a poor state and some stretches are poorly lit. The subway connecting GST Road with Tambaram station gets flooded even after a short spell of showers. People have to wade through knee-deep water. On normal days on the other hand, the subways are occupied by hawkers. While the EMU was converted from meter gauge to broad gauge four years ago, passengers want more 12-car trains to be operated.

According to V.Subramani of Traffic and Transportation Forum, a suburban residents' collective, much of the overcrowding can be reduced if there is better usage of the third track. Currently, the Beach-Tambaram service runs on two tracks and sometimes on a third track, which is mainly used by Mail and Express passenger trains.

“Excellent punctuality and regularity are the biggest success stories of this service,” says S. Anantharaman, Divisional Railway Manager of Southern Railway. Something even the MRTS and the upcoming Metro has lessons to learn. He agrees that there is over-crowding, but says during rush hour, trains run every five minutes. It is difficult to balance between the sudden swell and drop in passenger flow. We have anyway requested for more rakes.

With regard to using the third track, he says, “We have suburban up and suburban down. The other track can be used for suburban services, but the train can halt only in a few stations. Only a minority want such services.”

Studying overbridges

Talking about other passenger amenities, Mr. Anantharaman says the Railways are studying every foot overbridge. “Nungambakkam was upgraded recently and next will be Chromepet and the one at St. Thomas Mount,” he adds.


Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012

There is no single solution to this problem. The problem needs to be approached from multiple angles. Increasing the number of compartments in each train along with integrated mass rapid transit system is only a part of the solution. Integrating this with staggearing timings and therefore shifting peak hours in to smaller chunks of time is another solution. With advancement of IT, working from home or having flexible work options could be another option (obviating the need to travel completely or avoiding travel during rush/peak hours), establishement of satellite economic centres that help spread work locations, especially in the opposite direction - i.e instead of commuters travelling toward the city, at least a significant proportion of them would travel in the opposite direction, thereby reducing congestion.

from:  Krrishna
Posted on: Nov 22, 2011 at 08:39 IST

Far worse is the situation in Mumbai where a million passengers travel worse than sardines for over two hours each way. But our authorities have chosen Mumbai only lately for providing them with metro and mono rail. Even worse is the confused state of decision making. Fancy schemes like water transport from Borivli to Nariman Point and hovercrafts from Sobo to Nava Sheva in Navi Mumbai are being sponsored by interested ministers. . The state is now actively considering a ferry service where affluent car owners could go in a ferry along with their cars to SoBO in twenty mintues! This is advocated by interested sections even as rail passengers of middle class from far away nodes like Panvel in the mainland have to travel in a harbor rail line via Kurla taking more than two hours each way. A McKinsey Plan of a road-cum-rail bridge has been diluted with rail portion dropped arbitrarily. This project would have dramatically reduced the travel time.

from:  s subramanyan
Posted on: Nov 21, 2011 at 11:09 IST

The very bottom of the problem does not lie with lack of amenities or frequency of trains running, but with the rapidly exploding population itself. The geographical area of the nation does not grow every year in proportion to the increase in the number of people. I had been using these EMUs to commute from Saidapet to Broadway way back in 1990. Even then, I found it very hard to accommodate myself comfortably during the transit inside these units. Geographically, India is a third of the size of United States of America or China. However, the population is three times of that in USA. China can cope with the population considering the area of that nation. We need to focus more on controlling the exploding population so that the natural and unnatural resources like water, housing, transportation, power, etc., can be made within the reach of every single citizen of our nation.

from:  Sridharan Krishnamurthy
Posted on: Nov 21, 2011 at 03:23 IST
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