It has only private buses plying on it

Every time K.S. Sankaranarayanan, a septuagenarian, steps out of his house, he feels completely cut-off from the rest of the city. It is ironic that he lives right next to a swanky new four-lane road which was opened for vehicular traffic in February, 2010.

A resident of Thillai Ganga Nagar in Nanganallur, Mr. Sankaranarayanan says that in the last two years, no public transport bus has ever plied through the four-laned southern sector Inner Ring Road. The road leads right up to the Velachery MRTS station a few kilometres away, but there is no connectivity.

“To travel to any part of the city, I have to first go to either the Kathipara junction or Guindy. Those who can't afford the exorbitant autorickshaw fares have no option but to walk,” he says.

The southern sector IRR is just one road, but it is part of a larger jigsaw puzzle. Built at a cost of Rs.130 crore specifically to connect the booming residential areas of Madipakkam, Nanganallur and Velachery with arterials such as GST Road and Rajiv Gandhi Salai, today, only private vehicles and buses belonging to Information Technology companies ply on it. “Any development has to be supplemented by public transport,” says Mr. Sankaranarayanan. “We have made a number of representations to MTC [Metropolitan Transport Corporation] authorities, but nothing is happening. What is the purpose of the road?”

MTC officials cite lack of buses to operate additional routes and also the ongoing Velachery-St.Thomas Mount MRTS extension work in their defence. But residents like A. Raghavan say that it would be beneficial for the MTC itself to reroute some of its buses through the radial road as it offers a shortcut between the GST Road and Rajiv Gandhi Salai. “Right now, I have to change at least three MTC buses to go to my office. Nobody uses public transport in these parts,” he says.

“Besides, the road was specifically built for providing better connectivity to the MRTS station. Both the projects were planned in synchronisation, based on lessons drawn from lack of connectivity in the other elevated rail stations,” he adds.

Lakshmi Narasimhan of the Nanganallur Residents Welfare Association says that an integrated road-rail corridor was conceptualised back in 2001. But nothing has come out of it. “The MRTS has become an orphaned project and there is no practical plan to provide inter-modal connectivity,” he says.

Raj Cherubal of the Chennai City Connect Foundation, an NGO, says that the MRTS' problems with integration and inter-connectivity will continue as long as it remains under the control of the railways. “It is high time a Special Purpose Vehicle, along the lines of the Chennai Metro, is created to administer and operate the elevated rail line.” Reliable sources said that such a proposal has also been mooted in Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA) meetings.

S. Anantharaman, Chennai Divisional Railway Manager, said it is the MTC's responsibility to operate buses. He, however, acknowledged that three of the 21 MRTS stations account for 40 per cent of its total daily usage of 80,000 passengers. These three stations – Beach, Mylapore and Velachery – have a bus stop very close by.

“In future, when a Metro station also comes up at St. Thomas Mount, the level of integration and connectivity required would be massive. It has to be seriously addressed by CUMTA,” he added.