Live chat: Chennai's first Metro ride

As Chennai Metro Rail was inaugurated on Monday, after a six-year wait, The Hindu conducted a live chat with its readers on the new transportation system. Correspondents Suitha Sekar and Vivek Narayanan, who have been covering the Metro Rail, and Shreya Gadepalli, regional director ITDP, took part in the chat.

As Chennai Metro Rail was inaugurated on Monday, after a six-year wait, The Hindu conducted a live chat with its readers on the new transportation system. Correspondents Suitha Sekar and Vivek Narayanan, who have been covering the Metro Rail, and Shreya Gadepalli, regional director ITDP, took part in the chat.

Below is the transcript.

4:49 The Hindu: Welcome to The Hindu's live chat on the inauguration of the Chennai Metro Rail.

4:52 The Hindu: Joining us today are our correspondents, Sunitha Sekar, Vivek Narayanan, and Shreya Gadepalli, regional director, ITDP.

5:02 Comment From sudarshan: Y s fare heigher thn blore delhi mumbai ?

5:02 Sunitha Sekar: After six years, finally, Chennai get its first Metro Rail

5:02 Comment From Charles Bronson: Is there a possibility of CMRL to reduce the price of the tickets.

Sunitha Sekar: They may not reduce the fares.

5:03 Comment From Ram S: Are there bilingual signages and announcements while inside a metro train?

Sunitha Sekar: Signage in English and Tamil. Same is the case with announcements as well

5:03 Comment From Guest: Congrats Chennai !

5:03 Comment From Guest: It's too slow btw !

5:04 Comment From Sankar: Welcome Chennai Metro..... Price too high..

Sunitha Sekar: It is. That's what a lot of commuters feel. It is unlikely that they may reduce the fares

5:04 Comment From Ram S: I am sure while the patronage and consequently the frequency improves the speed will be increased - it is designed to run at 80 kmph

5:04 Comment From praveenstein: do you think that the middle class people can afford it?

5:05 Comment From Guest: will they connect alandur to velachery

5:05 Vivek Narayanan: Shreya how important is connectivity to the metro rail stations? will metro prove to be a solution for chennai's traffic woes?

Shreya Gadepalli: Metro is a good start. However Chennai needs hundreds of kilometres of mass rapid transit. The only way it can be extended is to use cheaper and faster technology like bus rapid transit.

5:05 Comment From haripriya: How is infracture in Metro Stns?Its connectivity to other areas in Bus? This is because there was hugh cry when metro stns in Blore did not have rest rooms

Vivek Narayanan: The metro rail is coordinating with Mtc to provide feeder services. They will be using small and regular buses

Sunitha Sekar: Same is the case with Chennai Metro as well. Just one rest room per station (one for men, women and differently-abled) It may not suffice

5:05 Comment From Charles Bronson: What is the frequency of the trains and is there a possibility of increasing the frequency?

Sunitha Sekar: Currently, there will be a train every 10-15 minutes. Depending on the increase in ridership, they may increase the frequency

5:07 Comment From Guest: As a country india should negotiate with single vendors for more negotiating power as there will be much more metro projects and then maintaining a standardized fleet of train makes sense.

5:07 Comment From Charles Bronson: Are the facilities good for the differently-able, for them to use the Metro without any assistance?

Sunitha Sekar: They say they are exclusive seats for differently-abled, non-slippery floors, audio announcements and Braille facilities. We also have a differently-abled group that may soon take a station visit and gauge the facilities themselves. Only then, we may actually know how it is for them

5:08 Comment From Ganesh: when MRTS and Chennai Metro will be integrated any time line ??

Vivek Narayanan: They are planning. infact 'metroman' Sreedharan too suggested that metrorail should take over MRTS.

5:08 Comment From smkaay: What are the safety measures in place for exigencies'

5:09 Sunitha Sekar: Shreya, could you tell us what kind of infrastructure should be built around stations?

Shreya Gadepalli: People access metro systems primarily on foot, foot and share-autos. So, it goes without saying that we need great footpaths not only around the metro stations but also from surrounding areas. Buses and share-autos need sufficiently sized stops. In addition, cycles can be a great mode for access. So, priority should be given to convenient cycle parking at stations.

Often people suggest creating parking for cars at stations. However, experience from other cities in India as well as other developing countries shows that this doesn't make sense. Parking lots/structures are expensive and serve a very small percentage of people. Often, the parking is used locally by people who have nothing to do with the metro.

5:11 Comment From vinod: What are the routes will be covered in phase 2?

5:12 Vivek Narayanan: Shreya what are your comments on the fare? Do you think it is too high?

Shreya Gadepalli: While the fare is high (compared to bus systems), this is to be expected. Metro is a high cost system. In Chennai, the average cost per kilometre is about Rs450 Crore. The operating cost is also higher that buses since there is large infrastructure that has to be maintained.

5:13 Comment From N. Kesavan: If the metro connected to Velachery or at least the St. Thomas Mount at the earliest the people will be benefited. The people living around Velachery, Mount and Nanganallur are affording high cost for the autos or they depend on call-taxis. Will the government see to it quickly to expand the Metro Rail to Velachery and Mount at the earliest?

Vivek Narayanan: Sir land acquisition is an issue - for MRTS and metro too

5:13 Comment From Guest: What is the status of bicycle sharing system planned in Chennai, how is it integrated with Metro?

Vivek Narayanan: Metro officials say there are plans. But not sure when it will happen though

Shreya Gadepalli: The Corporation of Chennai is developing detailed plans to implement a cycle sharing system.

5:14 Comment From Harini,Bangalore: BMRCL (Bangalore Metro) is about to complete Entire Phase 1 Within couple of months(trail already started) and entire Phase 2 within March..There was a huge delay owing to geographical features.Will Chennai Metro learn from Their counterparts in Bangalore and Delhi in speedy completion of other sections?Are there any geographical difficulties ahead in implementing the further phases?

Sunitha Sekar: As far as Chennai is concerned, they have sent the proposal for phase I extension from Washermanpet to Wimco nagar to Centre for approval and it has to give its sanction.

5:16 Comment From Kiran Patil: Is Metro a real solution to India’s over-populating cities? Shouldn’t there be different measures taken to ensure that the cities across the country remain less crowded and that the more roads are planned to ensure a safe travel everyday?

Shreya Gadepalli: There is a lot of push for Metro. However, experience from cities worldwide shows that even those that have large networks still depend on good bus services. Indian cities should first focus on improving their city bus services and implement cost-effective systems like bus rapid transit that can provide a wide network of flexible service to millions.

5:17 Comment From Venkat Loganathan: The fare can be reduced marginally if not on par with suburban fare. A welfare Govt. should provide affordable transport system within the reach of Common Man. The Govt. should not see it as Profit & Loss A/c of Govt. exchequer. The extra cost of maintenance can be adjusted by curtailing expr. on unwanted freebies

Sunitha Sekar: There is very less chance of them reducing the fares. They claim operating cost is high and so is the investment

5:19 Comment From mahesh kumar: congrats Chennai for getting the metro. but I failed to understand the indian mentality that on the day one we are asking for reduction in fares. we are a nation of subsidies and if the govt moves backwards, then I doubt the success of the metro and also its further expansion. please live with the time.

5:21 Comment From naveen: Is this very user friendly for old-age people and pregnant ladies....

Sunitha Sekar: For the first day, that's how it looks to us. But they can certainly improve the access to stations. Also, they have to continue to maintain the stations well; that's the challenge. Otherwise, Metro will become another MRTS

5:21 Vivek Narayanan: As commuters, what are your expectations from Chennai Metro Rail?

5:23 Comment From Vidhya Mohankumar: Hello! I have two questions.. one is regarding the frequency. Saying that frequency will be increased based on ridership I feel is a wrong way to approach it. Passengers should really be allured by the high frequency. What is your opinion on this?

My second question is regarding smart card facility for easy intermodal connectivity. How soon can we expect this in Chennai?

5:23 Comment From Neel: What is the actual cost and real ROI estimate of this system?

Shreya Gadepalli: The original proposed cost of Chennai was ~Rs250Cr/km for elevated line and ~Rs450Cr/km of underground lines. However, the final cost is expected to be about 40% higher.

5:23 Vivek Narayanan: Eating food inside the train is banned? is it going to similar to DMRL? Sunita can you answer

Sunitha Sekar: Commuters cannot eat inside the paid area of Metro Rail stations

5:23 Comment From Ram: Hi Shreya, I am very happy that Chennai got metro train. It is good to see new trains but later the maintenance of the station and train was not happening. If you see other train station it was not maintained properly. Maintenance and security is the key thing

5:23 Comment From Manamaboy: I am sure its every commuter's responsibility to maintain the cleanliness of the train and station! This will ensure hygienic travel for all...

5:24 Comment From Rajesh: Definetly,the fare was high.There is a concern that for the sixth station from first one is 40 now.If the stations would increase say upto 15(entire corridor),then the price becomes very high(think so).A family of 2 and 3 will sure go for private taxi than metro.....(if this situation prevails).

5:24 Comment From schatterjee: Actually, people should be encouraged to use Public transport system. It would reduce the traffic, road rages, stress levels. Feeder bus services( small buses) from point to point should be made available.

Vivek Narayanan: they are planning. so soon it will be available for passengers. Even share autorickshaws are planned

5:25 Comment From ganesan: learning from the delay experienced in executing this metro rail project. will the state government implement mono rail project at a faster phase. from vadapalani to poonamalli. comparatively mono rail construction is simple and does not involve land acquisition.

Vivek Narayanan: land acquisition is minimal. There is no news about mono rail from the government. Mr Sreedharan who was behind the DMRL suggests Light Metro rail or expansion of metro for the city over mono

5:25 Comment From Abhijit,Chennai: Why is Cmrl using overhead electrical cable which is very old unlike Bangalore metro which uses underground electrification which has more security than overhead cables?

5:25 Comment From Guest: As a commuter integration of MRTS and Metro should be first priority. There must be a good parking lot ( of course not much needed for Cars as mentioned). Mini buses from Metro stations to nearby bus stations where it is not available.

Vivek Narayanan: Parking will be limited. Not in all stations

5:25 Comment From Neel: If the ROI on a per Km basis for this is not made public, how will we know if simply buying more buses was not the more efficient option?

Shreya Gadepalli: Purely from a financial perspective, buying more buses is way more effective. However, those buses are bound to be stuck in traffic. Therefore, many cities in the world are creating Metro systems with modern buses. Often called bus rapid transit or BRTS, these systems have all the features of a metro—modern coaches, high quality stations, step-less boarding through wide automated doors, smart card fare collection, electronic passenger information—with the flexibility of a bus.

Sunitha Sekar: Filing an RTI is the best way to know ROI per km

5:26 Comment From Arul: Kudo's to CMRL for starting the first stretch. I congratulate the entire team, management and loan providers. Looking forward to get entire phase I quickly & safely set up. I also request for Phase II grant. Major observations are Fare can be 25 for this stretch and 35 for Alandur to Central. 50 for Airport to Central. I feel the train travels much slower than in delhi/Singapore/stockholm. The feel of train design is very nice even the noise factor is better.

Vivek Narayanan: we will include your valuable comments in our article sir

5:26 Comment From Shyam: Congrats to CMRL team..I would like to know the steps taken to prevent misuse of Metro by anti social elements.

Sunitha Sekar: CMRL staff are present in stations to guide passengers and also prevent people from misusing stations. There are CCTV cameras in various parts of the station.

5:30 Comment From Guest: Is there any plan to provide monthly passes like Indian railways? It will be helpful for daily travelling passenger.

Sunitha Sekar: Chennai Metro Rail has only travel cards. You can keep recharging them or get tokens at stations

5:30 Comment From Guest: Is the cost kept intentionally high so that only genuine users are using the Metro ? There may be a need to rationalise the cost so that the public at large feel it as another alternative to existing mode of transports.

5:31 Comment From Sai: Awesome job to the construction and operations team! Looking forward to travel in CMRL!

5:32 Comment From Guest: How much cost saving are the travle cards than the normal ticket ? and are they available at present

Vivek Narayanan: travel cards are available. They can purchase it from the stations.

5:32 Comment From Guest: Which steps will be taken by CMRL to use metro train to make it more revenuable like marketing or other aspects by which it earns money except selling of passenger's ticket?

Vivek Narayanan: advertisements in trains and in stations, space for commercial establishments on lease etc. Similar to railways

5:33 Sunitha Sekar: One of the reasons the fares are high, according to CMRL, is that once these are fixed, it will be very difficult to ask for revision of fares. So, if it slightly high now, they need not seek revision of fares

5:34 Comment From Azhar: I would seriously appreciate If the authorities will ensure that the commuters don't spit and litter and make the train and the surroundings untidy.

Vivek Narayanan: There are CCTV cameras to monitor. There is no clarity on the fine though.

5:35 Comment From Shyam: Can you throw some light on access control to these stations?

Sunitha Sekar: Can you be more specific? Do you mean travel cards to enter station?

5:37 Comment From Neel: What is the traffic load differntial between the routes chosen and other roads? In other words, did they build the metro where they did because they could? I have not seen any data on that.

Sunitha Sekar: The traffic congestion is quite high in this stretch. I think the intention to start with this stretch (Koyambedu to Alandur) was to improve mobility. Shreya, could you also throw some light?

Shreya Gadepalli: The best routes in the city were chosen for Metro. These three corridors have the highest public transport demand in Chennai.

5:37 Comment From Jeya Naveen: Congratulations Team for successful completion. I am worried about the cleanliness of the subway and station. Though it s the responsibility of the common man, Initially it demands a push from the Metro team to ensure things are in proper place. Awareness and fine for not following can be done.!! pls consider

Vivek Narayanan: There are CCTV cameras and CMRL personnel have been deployed to ensure that the station is kept clean. However, the commuter has to be disciplined. Its "namma metro" after all

5:37 Comment From Guest: the fare is reasonable one. in China also , same fare for distance-wise.If the people of chennai can not afford the fare, CMRL can not improve the service & maintanance

5:39 Comment From Raman Vellore: What is Duration to complete other phases? Will CMRL face problems like Bowring Machine cuts /Hard Rocks during tunneling ect ect that Bangalore Metro faced which eventually delayed the trial run?

Sunitha Sekar: They plan to complete the other corridors by 2016.

5:40 Comment From Ram S: How does the fare compare with AC MTC buses for comparable origin - destination

Vivek Narayanan: Rs. 35 is the fare in a MTC AC bus for the same distance. But a lot of travel time is saved

5:40 Comment From Rakesh Radhakrishnan: Are you guys planning for Bicycle Kiosks near Metro stations?

Sunitha Sekar: They plan to have bicycle sharing space in the near future

5:42 Comment From Azhar: I guess there has to be fine for the commuters as well. Unless strict rules are followed, it would be very difficult to maintain cleanliness

5:43 Comment From Srinivasan: What action taken by CMRL for feeder service(present in Bangalore) from Metro station to other areas

Vivek Narayanan: Small and regular buses and share auto rickshaws as of now. Besides the stations are situated close to bus stands.

5:43 Comment From Guest: Is this metro rail aimed at software techies who prefer such benign ideas? Bicycle kiosks are an unpopular idea with the masses who seem to love the metro and the "Amma" who launched it.

5:43 Sunitha Sekar: Shreya, can you tell us in which routes BRT can be implemented? Will that supplement Metro Rail?

Shreya Gadepalli: The planned BRT corridors complement the Metro system and will increase its reach. In total, six BRT corridors have been identified. 1) Saidapet-Sholinganallur 2) Airport-Tambaram 3) Koyembedu-Poonamalee 4)Koyambedu-Madhavaram 5) Koyambedu-Ambattur 6) Pallikaranai 100ft road

5:43 Comment From Guest: How do you propose they would handle unforeseen breakdowns?

Sunitha Sekar: There is an Operational Control Room in Koyambedu where they can see any hitch/ emergency in any station. They will communicate immediately to the respective station control rooms

5:43 Comment From karthik: we dont mind a higher fare if the facilities provided are good enough to support that price tag. I mean, just installing CCTV will not go well with the public that we have... CMRL needs to be severe on people who indulge in activities which compromises public's comfort and safety... we need to have defined penalties for unacceptable activities

5:47 Comment From Neel: Shreya: if you are saying the corridor with best demand was chosen, does that mean other resources from that corridor will now be shifted elsewhere? Is there an optimization plan?

Shreya Gadepalli: Metro and MTC are working on an optimisation plan.

5:50 Comment From Ram S: The question on optimization is particularly relevant as this would make people to use Metro better and consequently increase its patronagte

Shreya Gadepalli: True. However, given the fare differential, Metro will not be accessible to those who use buses. This should be kept in mind.

5:50 Comment From Azhar: @Karthik: Exactly. I don't mind higher fare as long as the facility and safety standards are good.

5:50 Comment From MOORTHY .A: why there is a vast difference in passenger tariff when compared to delhi metro? what is the norm being followed in railway fares? will you please kindly clarify?

5:51 Comment From Vajrayana: A four-fold increase in fares! This only means this metro is aimed at the upcoming demographic dividend of India who are not aware of the previous regime of fares for public transportation. I bet the older users of metro wouldn't even dare look up to this metro :)

5:51 Comment From Neel: Shreya: A bit odd for them to work on the plan after they decided to dig!I just wish all of these data points were made available on the CMRL website. Open Data, please.

Shreya Gadepalli: I represent a global non-profit that promotes sustainable and equitable transport ( We are all for open data!

5:53 Comment From Ram S: People switching over from buses to Metro would create additional bandwidth for those who continue to use the buses - may be their comfort would increase?

Vivek Narayanan: you mean that congestion in buses will reduce?

Shreya Gadepalli: Hopefully. The number of buses Chennai has is woefully inadequate. Chennai is short of around 1500 buses. In addition to Metro, it should think bus. London, Hong Kong, Singapore—cities that have extensive network of rail—still depend hugely on bus. 60-80% of public transport trips in these cities are on buses.

5:54 Sunitha Sekar: CMRL says the fares are priced this way because once fixed, it may be difficult to ask for revision of fares. We have to see how many are ready to pay this price and travel everyday

5:55 Comment From Ananth: It's really wonderful to see the metro finally open to public!But what's disheartening is the how the pillars are covered with posters and other graffiti.Hopefully the authorities take some steps to stop this.Let's keep CMRL clean people!

5:55 Comment From Naren: Shreya - if the corridor with best demand was chosen, why is the IT corridor (OMR) orphaned with no metro plans. Any form of road transport is gonna get clogged over a period of time. Any thoughts on OMR and its ever-increasing traffic scenario?

Shreya Gadepalli: A BRT system that provide dedicated lanes in the middle for a special fleet of modern buses and allied systems is planned on OMR. Check out the BRT Standard (

5:56 Comment From Neel: Ram/Shreya: if the Metro merely assumes those who now use a bus are its market and not those who drive, it'd have failed in its objective. So, we need not worry too much about the fare. An AC Bus is a reasonable benchmark.

Shreya Gadepalli: Some bus users are willing to shift to Metro. However, not all will. The hope also is that some car users will shift (~20% in case of Delhi Metro). However, traffic congestion cannot be solved purely by providing high quality public transport. Measures to dissuade the use of personal motor vehicles, especially through parking restrictions and pricing, are essential.

5:56 Comment From Ram S: While the fare structure should be equitable in relation to the costs and maintenance, it should also be sustainable - let us not turn this into another loss making venture - there is no such thing as a free lunch!

5:56 Comment From Balaji S R: Can you please tell us Who designed this model of train and infrastructure. Is it Indian based company (ALSTOM) ?

Vivek Narayanan: ALSTOM is a French company

Shreya Gadepalli: A consortium of French and Japanese companies called EMBYE designed the system for CMRL.

5:59 Comment From Ram S: Neel: Thanks for your response - I merely meant that one section of the patronage could come from those who use buses - not because of unavailability of other means of transport but the lack of parking, congestion on the roads, sensitivity towards adding to pollution, etc.

5:59 Vivek Narayanan: Any last thoughts from commuters?

6:01 Vivek Narayanan: So lets hope that Chennai Metro is a first step towards improving public transport in the city.

6:01 Comment From Neel: The route planning is not "night life friendly". A necessary condition for a great city.

6:01 Comment From Ram S: A big thanks to The Hindu team for keeping us informed of all the latest developments on the Metro front at all times... keep the Chennai flag flying high!!!

6:01 Comment From Karthik: Congrats & Please work on phase 2 approvals and implementation soon!

6:02 Sunitha Sekar: Please do give us your feedback on Chennai Metro Rail in the twitter handle > @ChennaiConnect

6:02 Vivek Narayanan: Do take a ride and share your experiences with pics :)

6:03 Comment From Azhar: Thank you "The Hindu" for giving us an opportunity to share our thoughts and suggestions :)

6:04 The Hindu: We will be closing the live chat now. Thank you Sunitha, Vivek and Shreya for taking part in this. Here's to hoping Chennai's brand new transportation lives up to its promises.

6:05 The Hindu: Tweet to us on > @the_hindu, connect with us on > Facebook. Log on to > for latest news, updates and commentary.

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