‘It ran through undeveloped areas; was financially unviable'
The State government has decided to drop one of the four monorail lines that were supposed to be built in the city. While originally an ambitious 111-km long Phase-I network was proposed to be constructed the revised target means the monorail grid would be only 57-km.
The corridor from Vandalur to Puzhal via Avadi (54 km) has been axed because it runs through “undeveloped areas with no pre-existing traffic in the alignment”, making it “financially unviable”. If it had been built, it would have been the longest monorail corridor in the world.
The decision was taken after the Empowered Monorail Committee met on Monday, following which a note was prepared and submitted to the government.
The note, sourced by The Hindu, observes that though the monorail connectivity itself will act as an inducer of development along the Vandalur-Puzhal corridor, “the lack of financial viability of this corridor may have a very severe, adverse impact on the cumulative viability of the other three corridors, in the scenario of all four corridors being clubbed together in one package”.
The revised 57-km long Phase-I of Chennai Monorail is estimated to cost Rs.8,500 crore. It is proposed to constitute a network of three elevated corridors –Vandalur to Velachery via Tambaram East (23 km); Poonamallee to Kathipara via Porur (18 km); and Poonamallee to Vadapalani via Valasarawakkam (16 km).
The fourth line may be considered in the subsequent phases of the project. Though it was projected as an easy to construct, emission-free public transport option that can provide connectivity to the city's bustling western and southern suburbs, the Chennai Monorail project has faced a number of stumbling blocks right from the start.
The initial global tender floated on August 15, 2011, had to be nullified due to lack of participation.
A senior government official said the government has been over-ambitious in its approach.
He said several monorail manufacturers had expressed the non-viability of building a 54-km monorail line using existing technologies even during the previous tendering process. While the initial four monorail lines left out north Chennai residents in the lurch, it now looks like even the western suburbs may not have mass transport connectivity at least for the next couple of years.
Independent experts also question the nature in which the project is implemented, based purely on private funding, which entails that investments would be made only in areas that are already developed. Even the Committee's note cautions that in case the project costs get inflated, “it would necessitate a high user fare.”