Need for common ticketing, adequate security to name a few
Two years ago the MRTS phase-II extension up to Velachery became operational. The link between Chennai Beach and Thirumailai was inaugurated over a decade ago. Twelve years and a project expenditure of over Rs.1,000 crore later, many of the concerns with regard to the service such as need for better connectivity with other modes of public transport, common ticketing, security and lack of maintenance of existing infrastructure remain unaddressed.
The problems are acknowledged by the agencies concerned such as the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) and Southern Railway; but solutions seem to be lost in a maze of arguments and counter-arguments.
The usage anticipated by the CMDA in its project plan once the phase-II extension went operational was 6 lakh passengers per day. The number of commuters who use the MRTS currently hover around 80,000 per day.
The CMDA and Southern Railway blame each other of step-motherly treatment towards the MRTS. The State government which financed 2/3rd of the project cost does not get any revenue out of the ticket sales. The revenue generation for the State was supposed to come through the commercialisation of air space in the stations which has not taken off.
Senior officials in Railway say approach roads and area lighting are absent because the government does not want to make further investments without the possibility of return.
“It has to be acknowledged that the pace of progress in the project is not satisfactory,” said a senior planner in CMDA. “Maintenance is a big issue. The Southern Railway does not have enough experience maintaining big stations enclosed within a cover space structure. Many of the assets created have been abused and the ‘park and ride’ feature has largely failed.”
A study currently being undertaken at the Department of Transportation, Anna University, also points out that the allotted 1 lakh square feet of parking space remains unutilised.
Some of the measures suggested in the study to augment the MRTS service are free passes to students of schools which are located along the stretch, better lit and safe parking lots, introducing first class coaches, and privatising maintenance operation because simple things such as malfunctioning lifts and escalators can deter most people.
Admitting that some kind of market building has to be done, Vikram Kapur, Member-Secretary, CMDA, said that making the stations appealing to use and providing shuttle services are essential.
“One major problem is that there are just too many departments involved and there is a lack of synergy. Many of the issues will be resolved once the Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) comes into place. The UMTA committee is in the process of drafting a bill to give a legal framework to the body. Common ticketing across different modes of public transportation would be a major push.”