Poor passenger amenities let down Chennai’s MGR Central Station

Room for improvement: A view of the main hall of the Central station, which has several issues affecting commuters.

Room for improvement: A view of the main hall of the Central station, which has several issues affecting commuters.   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

From ill-maintained toilets to chaos and congestion at entry/exit points, the iconic transport hub is a nightmare for commuters.

The Puratchi Thalaivar Dr. MGR Central Railway Station, still popularly called Chennai Central, attracts thousands of travellers from various parts of the country, and is one of the important gateways to the city. The railway station attracts over one lakh footfalls with more than 490 long distance trains operated to various parts of the country.

While Southern Railway maintains the facade of the railway station, a heritage structure, what lies within the railway station belies the imposing structure.

Commuters say that though Chennai is an important metro and the station is designated A1, its facilities does not compare favourably even with non-metro, smaller stations such as Kacheguda and Nashik.

T. Sadagopan, a consumer activist and regular traveller through the railway station, said except for the name change, the railway station has not seen any major improvements in the past few years.

Not surprisingly, Mr Sadogopan’s major complaint was on the lack of toilet facilities at the station. He said priority should be given to replacing the present Indian toilets with Western type models, while calling for more toilets. The single toilet facility of less than a dozen stalls for both men and women is woefully inadequate for the thousands of people transitioning through the station.

With a large number of commuters transitioning through the station, the lack of proper toilet and bathing facilities forces many long distance travellers to check into lodges close to the station for these basic amenities.

The iconic railway station also lacks proper signage and display boards. Mr Sadogopan pointed out that even though large display boards had been installed, most did not function properly causing confusion among passengers and visitors.

Regular commuters also highlight the lack of signs to help commuters access the Metro system and the absence of a dedicated pedestrian pathway to safely move between the multi-modal facilities. Visitors to the city are forced to trudge a considerable distance with their luggage to the Metro station through a crowded and ill-maintained parking space, defeating the purpose of smooth connectivity.

If accessing the Metro is difficult, other forms of transport to and from the station prove equally inconvenient, often leaving travellers traumatised at the very beginning of their encounter with the city. An inadequate pre-paid auto service leaves the field clear for auto drivers to harass hapless passengers, forcing them to settle for extortionate fares.

Parking woes

In the absence of dedicated parking and regulated transit points, passengers opting for taxi cabs and app-based taxi services face a harrowing time locating the vehicles even as drivers struggle to reach their customers.

Tamil Nadu Rail News, which highlights railway issues through the social media, has a flood of complaints on the lack of amenities. Foremost among them is the need for a foot over bridge (FOB) for between platforms with an exit to Wall Tax Road, similar to the FOBs available at Egmore railway station.

The presence of a large number of parcel trolleys at the entrance and along all platforms is another source of ire for passengers. Sridhar Joshi, a railway fan, said a number of such trolleys are kept in front of the narrow platforms hindering the movement of commuters, especially from Platform no. 1 to 8.

Slips in ranking

In the recently released Green Report 2019 of the Union ministry of Railway, Central was ranked in the 58th position while in 2018 the railway station was ranked as high as 36 going to show the drop in maintenance.

The commuters using four wheelers to the railway station also face hardships due to heavy vehicular congestion and the inadequate space to park the vehciles. Previously the railway department had two parking yards – premium and ordinary. But with the Metro Rail eating into the space of the railway station the premium parking has been closed.

The commuters are also aggrieved by the closure of the small entry and exit opened near the newly constructed Unreserved ticket counters on the Wall Tax Road. The entry/exit point was constructed to ease congestion and to give more entry options for the commuters. However the new gate has remained closed leading to autos occupying the gate and causing nuisance.

A senior official of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) when asked about the prepaid autorickshaws causing traffic bottlenecks and the need for streamlining the autostand said the prepaid autorickshaw stand is proposed to be shifted near the Stanley viaduct subway. He said once the subway renovation work is completed, which is expected to be completed in two years time, the auto stand would be shifted along with the taxi stand helping in widening the accessway to the railway station.

A senior official of the Southern Railway said Central Station was proposed to be modernised under the redevelopment of railway stations project. But with the project not taking off the railway department would be taking up providing amenities based on the funds allotted by the Railway Board.

For the thousands who travel through the iconic railway hub everyday, smooth access, hassle-free parking, well marked auto stands, and clean toilets — seemingly basic amenities — continue to be waitlisted.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 11:26:17 AM |

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