Southern Railway announced a new time table and reduced the suburban services in all four sections in July, citing engineering and maintenance projects to be carried out over three months. But it also said that the time table would be revised with more services in the Chennai Beach-Tambaram-Chengalpattu and Moore Market complex (MMC)-Avadi-Tiruvallur-Arakkonam sections by November, once the infrastructure projects were completed. Among these projects were Amrit Bharat Stations, the last 500-metre elevated track for the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) near St. Thomas Mount, and a few subway projects. The Chennai Division has completed major engineering projects, but the commuters are waiting for a revised time table.
While the fourth line, being laid from Egmore to Beach, has resulted in the curtailment of the MRTS services at Chintadripet till March next, the commuters in the Beach-Tambaram and MMC-Avadi-Tiruvallur-Arakkonam sections are facing difficulties with the reduction in the number of services.
Eight pairs taken off
S. Murugaian, secretary, Thiruninravur Rail Passengers Welfare Association, says that in the suburban train time table, announced in July, eight pairs of trains in the Tiruvallur section and nine pairs in the Tambaram section were reduced. He says the authorities, while reducing the services, had said the services were removed at non-peak hours, but commuters as far away as Thiruttani and Arakkonam, who depend on the train services at night, have been facing a lot of difficulties. He says two services announced in the latest revision, released on November 29, are not operational. They are the Avadi-MMC service (6.10 p.m.) and the Tiruvallur-MMC service (8.15 a.m.).
Sridhar Joshi, a member of Indian Railways Fan Club and a regular commuter from Perambur, complains about the delay in the operation of the services at the evening peak hours from 5.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. from MMC to Tiruvallur and beyond, resulting in heavy crowding of trains. He points to the need for preparing a time table in which trains bound for Avadi and Pattabhiram are not bunched together and more fast services should be run towards Arakkonam and Thiruttani for helping commuters reach home early. The authorities should carry out alignment of the loop line and the main line, as it has been done at the Ambattur station, for quick entry and exit of trains.
Plea for more 12-car rakes
Senthil, a regular commuter from Arakkonam, thanks the Chennai Division for resuming the fast local services on the fast lines. He wants more 12-car rakes operated. He points out that the platform extension was completed two years ago at several stations to accommodate 12-car rakes. But a less number of 12-car rakes is in operation. He says that while more 12-car rakes are operated in the Beach-Tambaram-Chengalpattu section than in the Tiruvallur-Arakkonam-Thiruttani section, the latter has more commuters and a longer route. The result is jam-packed trains.
Similarly, the commuters in the Beach-Tambaram-Chengalpattu section, which is supposed to be the most populated of all the four routes, request for more fast local services at morning and evening peak hours.
T. Manimaran, a resident of New Perungalathur, wants the authorities to streamline some of the services in the evening hours to help the office-goers returning home have a leisurely travel. He said the back-to-back operation of women special trains between 6 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. forces commuters, especially non-regular male commuters, to run to the front to board the train.
The commuters in the important sections of the west and the south are also upset that the suburban services are available only in a gap of 25 to 30 minutes at off-peak hours, causing a severe inconvenience to those commuting to Chengalpattu, Tiruvallur and Arakkonam at night.
A senior official of the Chennai Division confirms the plan for a new and revised time table for the Beach-Tambaram-Chengalpattu and MMC-Avadi-Tiruvallur-Arakkonam sections. He says several engineering and maintenance projects have been completed during the three-month period. The projects are fixing of girders for construction of the elevated structure for linking of the MRTS line to the St. Thomas Mount station; construction of road under-bridges at Ambattur, Pattabhiram, and Nemilichery; and station development.
As for the complaint of delays in arrival and departure of suburban trains at the MMC, the official says there is no delay in the services. Apart from the dedicated platform station master, the station manager and a section controller are monitoring the running of all trains, including the suburban trains, in the MMC-Avadi-Arakkonam section. While delay happens on some days for operational and technical reasons, the rate of punctuality of the suburban trains is more than 90%. He says trains are run in a gap of 10-15 minutes at peak hours, except in the MRTS and Gummidipoondi sections, and at a gap of 20 minutes at non-peak hours.