Modest establishments located along the corridors have suffered heavy losses

It is a colossal investment that has the potential to impact the urban economy. It can improve mobility and reduce traffic congestion. And it carries with it the promise to be the future face of the city.

But ever since Chennai Metro Rail began to take shape, it is not just commuters who have suffered. A section of shops in the city, all modest establishments located along the corridors where the Metro Rail runs, has suffered heavy losses.

“We have endured at least 50 per cent losses in the last few years and a large number of customers have been lost due to lack of parking space. Now, we take some bulk orders to make up for the loss in retail trade,” said 40-year-old Raja Hussain, who has been running a stationery shop on Anna Nagar Second Avenue for a decade now.

Apart from the loss of parking space, accessibility to shops has also become limited due to Metro construction work. “There are other problems that crop up often, like water overflowing from the Metro Rail site in front our shop. Sometimes, customers have to take a detour to reach the shop. But we are surviving with the hope that soon after the Metro comes, our business would significantly improve,” said Sharon Kiron, executive director of Hi-style, a clothing store on Second Avenue, Anna Nagar.

If some have lost business, there are others who lost their land after Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) acquired them, and had to shift their shops.

“Our land was acquired by Metro Rail; so, we didn't have an option but to give it up. After all, we knew it was a futile battle to fight. Our losses turned from bad to severe. But I am still looking forward to the Metro Rail facility since it will benefit many,” said 45-year-old Gurdeep Ahluwalia, of Lightway Sports Company on Anna Salai.

The fact that huge infrastructure projects like Metro Rail quintessentially bring with them constant delays has further exacerbated problems. There are plenty of fast-track construction procedures that could be employed to speed up work, former dean of Anna University A.R. Shantakumar said.

“During such project delays, it is not just the direct cost based on material and labour that goes up; there is also an increase in indirect costs due to vehicles taking detours and pollution, which may also affect the economy. In some cases, we may not notice that the indirect cost is bigger than that of the direct ones. There should be a strict commitment to deadlines when you start massive projects,” he said.

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