This weekly column will explore traffic, modes of transport and commuter requirements in the city

Rewind to 2006. The AIADMK made a towering proposal to build a 300-km-long monorail system for Chennai with 18 corridors costing Rs. 16,000 crore, with 2011 as the deadline.

Also, the government in its ‘Vision 2023’ document said there may be metro or monorail systems for two cities other than the capital. Now, Chennai has a metro rail system that despite grappling with delays is moving ahead, and a monorail system that is also beginning to take shape.In the last seven years, the monorail project had its first tender annulled, its length and cost trimmed, and now, awaits the bidding process.

The project costing Rs. 8,500 crore covers 57 km with three elevated corridors — Vandalur to Velachery via Tamabaram East (23 km), Poonamallee to Kathipara via Porur (18 km) and Poonamallee to Vadapalani via Valasaravakkam (16 km).Just last month, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa convened a meeting to review the progress of this project.

Initially, it was speculated that the delay was caused by a lack of eligible participants when the first tender was floated; then, the confusion over whether this project had to be classified under the Indian Tramways Act, 1886 or the Railways Act marred it.

But clarity has now emerged on these two issues, say sources. The monorail project may be categorised under The Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act, 1978, according to sources at the ministry of urban development. The ministry also sent back the feasibility report of the State government directing it to make changes owing to a few discrepancies in the report.

Some may say monorail systems with limited track lengths are ideal for cities with light traffic demands and for a city like Chennai, an extensive metro rail system ably supported by a Bus Rapid Transit may work much better. But there are others who endorse the monorail and say any public transit that can improve mobility is a welcome addition.

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The joy of travelling in the ‘parakkum rayil’ (flying train) as the Mass Rapid Transit System is referred to by Chennaiites, has run out, mainly because of the ordeal it is to reach the MRTS stations or the main road from the stations. Blame the lack of inter-connectivity in the city.

There are a total of 17 MRTS stations through which 134 services are operated to ferry over 80,000 passengers per day. However, a majority of the stations, including Kotturpuram, Mandavelli, Greenways Road, Indira Nagar, and Thoraipakkam, do not have proper transport connectivity. Passengers who alight at MRTS stations are forced to walk quite a distance, and through poorly-lit and dirty approach roads to get on to the main road.

“Share autorickshaws should be allowed to park beneath MRTS stations to help commuters,” suggests T. Ravikumar, president, All India Rail and Bus Passengers’ Association.Another suggestion is that mini buses can be used as a feeder service.

“Let them enter MRTS stations, especially during peak hours,” said Deepa. S. Kumar, a resident of Nandanam, who uses the MRTS daily to get to work. At present, mini buses are available only at Perungudi station.

(Reporting by Sunitha Sekar and Vivek Narayanan)

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