The Railway Ground in East Tambaram has fallen into a state of disuse over the past decade

It was a ground like no other. The Railway Ground in East Tambaram has produced many athletes from areas surrounding it, athletes who have gone on to represent the nation and other prestigious teams. It has been host to several prestigious tournaments and it was once the centre for all sporting activity in the city’s southern suburbs.

Big enough to accommodate a football field, a cricket ground and a hockey field, there was plenty of space for athletes to train, for senior citizens to take a leisurely stroll in the evening and for young children to run around. However, over the past decade or so, the Railway Ground has been falling into a state of disuse, just like Railway Colony on whose premises it is.

After rains, when the ground is slushy, vehicular movement on it makes it completely uneven. The long jump pit is filled with stagnant rain water. There are plastic cups and empty water sachets strewn all around the ground.

Long-time residents of Railway Colony and former and current Central and State government employees, who volunteer to train young men and women in athletics, boxing, football and cricket, lament the state of the ground.

D.S. Sivasamy, a former additional director of Municipal Administration and Water Supply and a football enthusiast, said they had submitted a petition to former railway minister R. Velu, urging his intervention to spruce up the ground. Only the Southern Railway could step in to improve the state of the ground, he said.

“This ground is unique. No other ground anywhere in the city is as big as this. A full lap here is 800 metres long,” said B. Sadiq a resident.

This has the potential to be converted into a full-fledged stadium, but for reasons best known to Southern Railway, which gives a lot of importance to sports, the ground had been ignored,” he added.

The outer lap where runners train, is uneven and filled with gravel and construction rubble. Heavy vehicles drive rashly on the bitumen-topped surface. Only a few of the several hundred quarters for Southern Railway staff are occupied. Residents point out that after dusk, the ground becomes an open bar and many young men break bottles inside the ground.

Calling for immediate intervention from Southern Railway, residents also said there should be greater vigil to prevent miscreants from misusing the ground.

People entering the ground to hone their driving skills on two-wheelers and cars should be banned, they said. Southern Railway’s administration should restore the Railway Ground to its original glory and contribute to furthering the cause of sports, the residents added.

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