A spatial map of alternative routes must be identified and signboards and road markings must be improved, say experts
Preliminary work on the underground section of the Chennai Metro Rail has begun with soil tests under way in three locations across the city. With excavation of proposed station spaces expected to commence by June, the attention has shifted to how the city is gearing up to face construction-related traffic congestion and also the proposed redevelopment of areas in the vicinity of Metro stations.
K. Rajaraman, Managing Director, Chennai Metro Rail Limited, said that analysis of soil samples, taken from locations where stations are proposed, would determine the thickness and strength of station walls.
“Once tunnelling starts, the entire project would be under a tight schedule. When Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) are launched, station spaces along its route would have to be completed before the machine arrives,” said Mr. Rajaraman.
He explains that there are three broad deadlines: Trial run on the 11-km Ashok Nagar-Koyambedu-St.Thomas Mount elevated section by December 2013 (Stage 1), completion of a 10 km elevated segment of Corridor-I from Saidapet to Airport by December 2014 (Stage 1a) and finishing the remaining 24 km of underground tunnels by mid-2015 (Stage 2).
Mr.Rajaraman said that a “cut-and-cover” approach would be adopted to construct underground stations. “A comprehensive traffic management plan would be put in place by the time full-fledged work begins,” he added.
According the Detailed Project Report of the Chennai Metro Rail project, work on underground stations would take up to nine metres of the road. Construction would be restricted to a 200 to 300 metre road stretch at any given point of time to minimise inconvenience. Private traffic wardens, hired by the contractor, would supplement the traffic police.
The report goes on to say that eight TBMs would be deployed and tunnelling activity will be finished 30 months from the date of commencement. The estimated loss incurred if one day of work is lost is about Rs.50 lakh.
Bangalore, Delhi studies
Balchand Parayath, Chief Executive Officer of Chennai City Connect, says that studies done during Metro construction in Bangalore and Delhi show that there will be a quantum increase in travel time for motorists once tunnelling starts. “The waiting time at signal junctions would go up by at least 20 to 30 per cent. A spatial map of alternative routes must be identified and signboards and road markings must be improved. Efforts should be made proactively to reduce congestion.”
H.M. Shivanand Swamy, executive director of the Centre for Excellence in Urban Planning at CEPT University, Ahmedabad, and Chief Planner of the proposed Ahmedabad Metro, says that even as construction gains pace, redevelopment of the Metro's influence area must be seriously considered. “In most existing networks, 200-300 metre on either side of the Metro corridor is chosen and more open spaces are created. Compound walls must be discouraged and pedestrian access must be greatly improved. The Metro must become a part of the street culture and that is possible only if the zone has safe crossing points and wide public spaces,” he adds.
While asking motorists to prepare for some pain during the construction phase, Mr. Rajaraman says that once the Metro begins operation, there will be a number of significant benefits. “It will take off a bulk of two-wheelers from the road. Pollution and dust levels will come down leading to a drop in respiratory diseases. Productivity levels will also go up since work commute would be less tiring.”