Suburban subways in Chennai: the road less travelled

Subways and foot overbridges seem to serve every function other than the intended one of helping pedestrians navigate busy stretches

July 16, 2013 02:34 am | Updated November 16, 2021 08:57 pm IST - CHENNAI:

At Tambaram, hawkers occupy a large portion of the subway and even the stairs that lead into the subway. Photo: M. Srinath

At Tambaram, hawkers occupy a large portion of the subway and even the stairs that lead into the subway. Photo: M. Srinath

Pedestrian subways in the city’s southern suburbs have few takers.

The National Highways Authority spent about Rs. 15 crore to complete the pedestrian facilities across GST Road at Tambaram, Pallavaram, Alandur and Chennai Airport a few years ago. Today, they seem to represent a waste of public money.

The subway at Asarkhana, Alandur, ever since it was built, has had poor patronage compared to others as it not located at a strategic place, with little pedestrian movement along the stretch. At Pallavaram, the subway connects the railway station road and the market. However, a little ahead, at the traffic signal at the junction of GST Road and Pammal Main Road, there is a pedestrian crossing and people choose to walk across the road rather than use the subway.

At Tambaram, vendors with various wares, including vegetables, stationery, snacks and toys, occupy a large portion of the subway and even the stairs that lead into the subway, and the pavements found just outside the facility. While pedestrians complain of the inconvenience caused to them, the hawkers and other residents said they had been a fixture around Tambaram railway station for many decades.

“I took over from my mother Hasana Beevi and the livelihood of my family and immediate relatives depend on our pavement shops,” said Fathima, who sells fruits at her makeshift shop near the entrance leading to the pedestrian subway at Tambaram railway station.

M. Panneerselvam, a vendor, said they took home an average of Rs. 400 a day and this was barely enough. The vendors said they pooled in Rs. 20 per head every day and the collected amount was given to workers engaged in sweeping and cleaning the subway.

In many areas, long before subways and bridges were constructed, vendors had set up their shops in public places, especially along roads leading to bus stops and railway stations. “Yes, it is a slight problem to pedestrians. But the pavement vendors’ have helped lower-income groups, and even the middle class and salaried sections cut down on their day-to-day expenses,” said V. Mohan, a Tambaram resident.

However, other residents consider pedestrians’ rights to be of paramount importance. “Pavements meant for pedestrians should be free from any form of obstructions, temporary or permanent, and this cannot be negotiable,” said J. Gandhi, a pensioner and a resident of east Tambaram.

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