Integrated multi-modal transport system on the anvil
The plan to cover the Chennai Metropolitan Area with a network of monorail corridors has made a comeback with the State government on Friday announcing a proposal to build “300-km of monorail in a phased manner,” in the Governor's address.
It has also promised to put in place an integrated multi-modal transport system plan for Chennai.
The aim is to increase the modal share of public transport from 27 per cent of daily trips to 46 per cent by 2026.
Though a 45-km metro rail system is under construction, the project is “cost intensive” and takes a considerable amount of time for completion. Hence, the government will implement the monorail project in Chennai to “integrate with the existing transport system.” Phase-I of the project will cover 111-km, the Governor Surjit Singh Barnala said.
In a monorail system, the train is usually either suspended from or straddles a narrow guide way. Equipped with rubber tyres and propelled by electricity, monorail vehicles are wider than the guide way that supports them, making it seem as if they are hovering along the track.
The monorail proposal dates back to February 2006.
A monorail-based elevated rail network, covering 300-km and consisting of 18 corridors, was the previous AIADMK government's solution to the city's perennial problem of traffic congestion.
The government's rationale for preferring the monorail option over the metro rail were – reduction in construction cost, minimal impact on existing buildings and neighbourhoods, aesthetic appeal and suitability in a dense city such as Chennai where there are narrow roads and sharp curves.
All these reasons from 2006 still stand, with one more getting added to it – the gestation time of the project. Metro rail construction is seen as time-consuming. It also causes major disruptions to traffic flow for a few years.
On the other hand, monorail systems can be built faster, expand towards suburban areas much more rapidly and will cause minimal disruption to traffic during construction.
However, most of these reasons are disputed by critics who say that the monorail is used only in small stretches and that a metro rail system is capable of carrying more passengers than a monorail.
Well placed sources in the Chennai Metro Rail also say that if the metro network is not expanded beyond the two corridors that constitute Phase-I, the system might not achieve “economy of scale and it will be difficult to make an operational profit”.
In 2006, the government stated that the city urgently needs a high-speed elevated rail system because the number of private vehicles on the city's roads had tripled between 1992 and 2005, increasing from 5.5 lakh to 16.5 lakh. Now it stands at 32 lakh.