What will Chennai's public transportation infrastructure look like in 2026?
The year might seem to be a long way off, but building convenient, usable and capital-intensive transportation infrastructure requires planning decades in advance.
In fact, plans are already afoot for the next phase of the Metro Rail project. The Phase-II committee, set up by the Chennai Metro Rail Limited, is in the process of preparing a report to suggest future Metro corridors that are “prima facie feasible”. The report will be submitted to the State government by next month.
The extension of Corridor I (Washermenpet to Airport) up to Tambaram is one of the proposals, said K. Rajaraman, Managing Director of CMRL.
The Comprehensive Traffic and Transportation Study, commissioned by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority, was meant to answer the Chennai 2026 question.
Future metro corridors
Based on traffic studies, it recommended three future Metro corridors. It also envisages large transportation hubs that link various modes of transport with the Metro at Luz, Gemini Circle, Tirumangalam, Porur, Saidapet and St.Thomas Mount.
In what is a reflection on the city's long-term planning capabilities, an independent report, prepared by a section of the residents of St. Thomas Mount with the help of consultants, shows that one of the Metro corridors (St. Thomas Mount to Medavakkam) proposed by the CTTS might be unfeasible.
T. G. Veermani, a retired Southern Railway chief surveyor and one of the consultants, says that the design of the inter-model station at St.Thomas Mount, where Corridor-II of the Metro integrates with the MRTS and the suburban line, makes any extension unviable.
At the St.Thomas Mount hub, the Metro station will come right on top of the MRTS station.
“The direction of alignment of the station will mean it can only be extended towards the airport, which will already be served by Corridor-I. If the station design had been made perpendicular to the MRTS line, which might complicate integration, the extension to Medavakkam along the Medavakkam High Road would have been possible,” says Mr.Veeramani.
The Metro alignment has now been finalised and in case there is a future extension towards Medavakkam, it will have a significant land acquisition impact.
One of the reasons behind the lack of an integrated citywide long-term vision is that many agencies do not recognise the CTTS, which cost about Rs.1.7 crore to prepare. Responding to an RTI query by a resident, CMRL said that there was “no proposal to extend Corridor-II beyond St. Thomas Mount” and “extension to Medavakkam is only a consultant's idea and has not been approved.”
Mr.Rajaraman said that all future expansion will be decided only by the Phase-II committee set up by CMRL. He added that the corridors suggested by the CTTS will be taken into account and “sometimes compromises on alignment have to be made to bring down land acquisition”.
R.Sivanandan, Professor, IIT-Madras said that a Metro system can function only as a network and expansion plans must have a long-term strategy.
“Initially, a linear or a loop corridor is fine. But the system must eventually spread everywhere to make people really shift to mass transit systems,” he added.