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.”
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.