The poor maintenance of the train stations on the MRTS line connecting Velachery and Chennai Beach has been a sore point with commuters for the past several years. The facilities at the 17 stations, which cater to about one lakh people every day, leave much to be desired.
The public toilets are perhaps the biggest point of concern. Amrita Aneppil voices the sentiments of many passengers when she says, “Maybe because of a prejudice against public bathrooms, a lot of women don't like to use them. They smell bad and are almost always not clean.”
Toilets in stations such as Indira Nagar, Greenways Road and Mandaiveli are locked and unavailable for use throughout the day. In other stations, they are open only until 6 p.m. although they are supposed to be so till 10 p.m.
Southern Railways officials say the toilets are supposed to be maintained by a private contractor, who hires workers to clean them and collect a nominal amount from passengers as maintenance charges.
However, S. Anantharaman, the Divisional Regional Manager (DRM) of Southern Railways says the contractors often do not make much money without a clientele. “In the stations with locked bathrooms, we have given the key to the station master. The people can take the key and use the toilets,” he added. Passengers in such stations though, seemed unaware of the facility in the absence of any notification.
T. N. Vijayakumar, the station master at the Tirumailai station, adds that the toilets often remain shut due to lack of manpower since most of the workers maintaining the toilets are women who only agree to work the morning shifts. At the Tirumailai station though, there are only two cubicles available in the pay-and-use toilet of which one was locked and the other one was congested.
Commuters opine the situation in Indira Nagar station is exceptionally bad with the construction work that has been going on for two years making the situation worse. The toilet at that particular station, only available for women, is in no condition to be used. M. Swetham says, “At Mandaiveli station, I saw a child urinating under the wash basin from where labourers often collect drinking water. It was right outside the station master's office. But no one seemed to notice it.”
Water filters and taps are defective at most stations such as Chintadripet, Indira Nagar, Tiruvallikeni and Light House. Dustbins too are missing at many stations.
T. Ravikumar, the President of the All India Rail and Bus passenger association cited many other concerns including security.
“The local police is often not present. The lights often don't work at a lot of stations. Even for the toilets, they demand various prices sometimes even up to Rs. 5,” he said. The association filed several complaints to the DRM last year but Mr. Ravikumar says he has not got any reply.
When asked about these specific issues, Mr. Anantharaman said that he would look into the matter.