Experts attribute the phenomenon to little or no focus on ancillary facilities
CHENNAI: It is going to be almost two years since phase II of the Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) went operational. Though the extension up to Velachery did lead to an immediate increase in usage, many of the problems which plagued the service remain unchanged even after two years.
Select stations especially receive poor patronage. According to statistics provided by the Southern Railway, on an average 76,315 commuters use the MRTS service per day. Of this, Velachery receives the highest patronage with 14,731 people using it every day on an average.
But stations such as Indira Nagar (2,359), Perungudi (2,665), Greenways Road (2,886) and Mandaveli (3,304) do not find many takers, and experts in the field of transportation attribute this to little or no focus on the ancillary facilities which were supposed to have come up along with MRTS.
“There is zero connectivity between MRTS and other transportation networks,” said M.G.Devasahayam, managing trustee of SUSTAIN, an organisation that works for sustainable solutions to Chennai’s urban growth problems.
“Stations such as Perungudi do not have parking facilities. Autorickshaws also cannot come into certain stations because of the location. Measures such as single ticketing across different modes of public transport and an integrated transportation network must be evolved to improve the situation,” he said.
He added that aligning the MRTS along the Buckingham Canal which is not a transport corridor meant better facilities had to be provided so that people could reach the stations.
“The lack of accessibility is why capacity utilisation is still low.”
Karthik. K. Srinivasan, assistant professor, transportation engineering division, IIT-Madras, said that the lack of feeder services and proper approach roads to some of the stations were key problems. “The original plan was to link commercial districts such as Park Town to the residential suburbs in the south. So, the situation might improve when the link to St. Thomas Mount is completed. But more focus has to be given to ancillary facilities which were supposed to have come up along with the MRTS rail infrastructure,” he said.
Admitting that there were serious problems in regard to connectivity, divisional railway manager, Southern Railway, S.K.Kulshrestha, said that the existing infrastructure was being poorly utilised. “The infrastructure in place can take more trains and passengers but there is adequate utilisation only during rush hour. Less than 50 per cent of the seats are filled during other hours.”
He said that after investing two-thirds of the project cost into MRTS, it was up to the State government to direct the Chennai Corporation and local authorities to provide better approach roads.
“Feeder services are also essential and it is unfortunate that the Metropolitan Transport Corporation withdrew its services from the Chintadripet station because of poor usage within a short duration. The programme has to be sustained for a period and has to be better publicised so that the public would start using them,” he said.