The fate of several houses, a school and a clinic in Chromepet all hang in the balance as the State Highways Department is set to resume work on the construction of a limited use vehicular subway.
In February 2000, the Pallavaram Municipality adopted a resolution to construct a pedestrian subway to replace the railway level crossing (LC No. 27) near the Chromepet railway station. However, for seven years, there was no progress made. In July 2007, the State Highways Department decided to construct a vehicular subway instead – a proposal the Southern Railway agreed to.
Residents of Kollanchavady, the locality adjoining the railway station, though, have appealed to the State government to go by the original plan as several houses would have to be demolished to construct the subway.
To prevent damage and to reduce land acquisition, the government decided to construct a limited use subway for two-wheelers, cars and light commercial vehicles. However, this arrangement too has not brought cheer to the residents who will be forced to part with large chunks of their property.
“Forty two families will lose their property. Most of the landowners here belong to poor families, living in plots of about 300 square feet to 400 square feet,” said E. Loganathan, a third-generation resident of Kollanchavady. He added that more than 50 years ago, most residents had parted with land measuring three to four feet free of cost, when access along Kollanchavady towards Zamin Raayapettai was improved.
“If they take our land, our livelihoods will be completely destroyed,” said Mariamma Alex of St. Mary's Nursery and Primary School, where 250 students, mostly from marginalised communities study. Residents wondered why the original plan of a pedestrian subway was dropped. Had the municipality and the Highways Department stuck to their original design, land acquisition could have been minimal, they said. The existing Radha Nagar Main Road was very narrow and acquisition of their property for service lanes and storm water drains would only result in the complete takeover of their houses, residents said. They also said the vehicular subway could have been shifted to the neighbouring level crossing (LC No. 26), about 100 metres away, where the existing road was wide enough to build it.
Officials of the State Highways Department however, said the land needed for completing the subway was already in their possession and this has been published in a Government Gazette last year. The residents had also been informed personally.
There was no bridge or a subway sanctioned for the adjacent level crossing (No. 26). Letters indicating the compensation amount they would receive had also been sent to property owners and it was no longer possible to alter the design of the subway constructed so far, they said.