CHENNAI: For commuters who regularly use the Chintadripet MRTS station, the new Secretariat building just across the road has come as an unlikely ally. Within two months the station has been transformed from a dark, dingy place into a reasonably clean, usable public transportation facility.
Close to Rs.34 lakh was spent on various kinds of maintenance activities recently at the station. Compare that to Rs.14 lakh which was spent over the three years preceding that and one can get an idea of why most MRTS stations are in the state that they are. No maintenance work has taken place on the Mylapore-Velachery stretch since construction of the stations is still not fully complete.
“The bridge on which the MRTS line runs on Anna Salai was painted just because the Public Works Department (PWD) asked us to spruce it up for inaugural function of the new Assembly-Secretariat complex,” said a senior Railway official.
“We do not have any inclination to spend on the MRTS line. While annual running cost on the segment is Rs.27 crore, the revenue generation is only Rs.9 crore,” he added.
The overall maintenance activity which was undertaken at the Chintadripet station is called a ‘special project'. According to Railway estimates, such projects must be carried out every two to three years but on the MRTS line it is done once in seven years.
“The huge size of the stations is a major problem when it comes to maintenance,” said S.K. Kulshrestha, Divisional Railway Manager. “MRTS was taken up as a means to showcase the Railway. However, utilisation has been very low. We can maintain two to three stations on the Tambaram segment for the same amount of money required to maintain one on the MRTS segment.”
He also said that Chepauk station would be taken up next for overall maintenance.
Pointing out that station spaces must be treated as marketing assets, a senior Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) planner said that the Railway ought to pay more emphasis on real-estate management. “If the space in each station is treated as an asset, there is a lot of revenue potential.”
Despite the anticipated increase in traffic once the Secretariat starts functions, regular commuters like R.Aravamudhan remain sceptical.
“I have been using the Chintadripet station almost every day for the last two years and have never seen any kind of maintenance activity. Facilities are much better now, but will they continued to be maintained like this,” he asked.