Building removed from heritage list

The country’s oldest surviving railway station may soon be demolished.

Southern Railway is likely to raze the old Royapuram station, built in 1856, for development work.

Earlier this week, at a meeting of the Heritage Conservation Committee, Southern Railway officials asked Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority to remove the station in north Chennai from the list of heritage buildings in the city. “Buildings that are tagged as heritage structures cannot be demolished, and no major work can take place in them. Royapuram station’s deletion from the heritage list will make it easier for it to be demolished,” said a senior CMDA official.

According to Southern Railway officials, a number of development projects have been planned on the 72-acre station premises, including two rail lines to connect stations in south Tamil Nadu with the rest of the country. Another project is the creation of a passenger terminal next to Central and Egmore stations, as well as a loco shed.

However, archaeologists and conservationists are up in arms over the proposal.

Archaeologists said the Royapuram station was probably the oldest surviving station in the entire sub-continent, as the original structures of Bombay and Thane stations no longer existed.

“The station may not have any major cultural significance, but it is historically very important. Even partial demolition of the building will ruin one of our finest heritage structures,” said K. Kalpana, a conservation architect.

The Royapuram station was inaugurated on July 1, 1856 by the then Governor of Madras Presidency, Lord Harris. The first services to be operated were between Royapuram and Ambur and between Royapuram and Tiruvallur. Built by Madras Railway Company, Royapuram was selected as the site as it was on the edge of a settlement of British traders and locals near Fort St. George.