Know more about the city's transportation system in the weekly column 'Roads and Rails'.

As work on the Metro Rail gains pace, the question on everyone's mind is: Have lessons been learnt from the problems that plague the MRTS corridor?

Building a high density rail network is not just about the infrastructure. Issues of access, connectivity, feeder services and unified ticketing are integral parts of a well-run mass public transit system.

Chief General Manager of Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) V. Somasundaram says that the Metro Rail will be making a push towards integration and convenience of use.

Once the Metro becomes operational, he says, mini-bus services that are uniquely branded as belonging to Metro Rail will ply along short circuits within a three kilometre radius of “select stations”.

Spaces for setting up “traffic integration bays” have already been identified in Thirumangalam and Guindy. Chennai Central will also be an important point from where shuttle services will ply.

In areas of north Chennai where roads are narrow, a unique “franchised share autorickshaw” model might be tried, says Mr. Somasundaram. Autorickshaws that offer a “certain level of comfort” will be ‘branded' and a revenue sharing agreement will be employed to incentivise them to add people to the Metro rather than compete.

He adds that since all transactions will be based on the ‘common mobility card' format which will be used on the Metro, commuters can just swipe their card in a slot to use the feeder service.

According to him, since the estimated commuter density in each Metro station during rush hour is between 10,000 and 15,000, congestion reduction rested heavily on the kind of last mile services available to commuters.

Raj Cherubal, coordinator, Chennai City Connect, an NGO working on improving traffic and transport conditions in the city, says that irrespective of whether the Metro is making money or not, it should be world class. “The government must restrict itself to monitoring the line.”

He suggested a service level agreement with an operator to take care of the daily operations. It should serve as a measure to bring in extra passengers and allow a brand to be built.

The Hong Kong MTR, which is privately owned, harnesses the potential of commercial space at the stations to increase its revenue and patronage. It has the distinction of being one of the few subway systems in the world that actually makes profit.

Land-use planning

Other changes in land-use planning and taxation might also come about as a result of the Metro project. Though it is still years away, following the Delhi example, property tax rates in localities that are in the ‘influence area' of the Metro might be relooked.

The Municipal Valuation Committee constituted by the Delhi government recently suggested major changes in the existing categorisation of residential colonies and “proximity to Delhi Metro lines” was considered as one of the factors.

S. Anantharaman, Divisional Regional Manager, Southern Railway, says that move would be logical as the Metro is a service which the city provides and residents who benefit the maximum out of it will have to bear an additional burden.

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