TAMIL NADU

Thiruvottiyur railway station, a symbol of neglect

CHENNAI May 22. The Thiruvottiyur railway station, situated between two industrial areas, has become a symbol of some of the worst neglect that suburban passengers have to endure, in a city that frequently talks about mega development plans.

Lack of proper approach roads to the station, encroachments by slum-dwellers and traffic congestion at the level crossing are issues which have to be looked into immediately, say passengers.

The station, which is located at the centre of two bustling areas, Thiruvottiyur and Manali, caters to about 3,000 passengers daily including office-goers and college students.

Railway commuters feel that they have been ignored for long. One of the commuters, Anand, complains that there is no proper approach road to the station from west Thiruvottiyur. "Many commuters from areas including Annamalai Nagar and Balakrishna Nagar are forced to use tracks as there is no proper passage to the station. They put their life at risk. Moreover, the pathway to the station is extremely narrow and poorly lit causing inconvenience to passengers," he added.

Another commuter from Thiruvottiyur, Balachander, laments that even the second pathway is ill maintained and devoid of blacktopped road, forcing passengers to take a detour of about 1 km.

There is a row of huts on the railway area, which could otherwise serve as an extension of the present approach road from Thiruvottiyur.

According to residents, about 100 families have encroached upon the area along the railway station for more than five years. These residents should be shifted to some other area for the greater public good, they say.

Sowmiya, who regularly travels to Vysarpadi in a blanket of darkness cast by lack of adequate street lighting, said: "Commuting during late evening hours is dangerous especially for women who don't have any other option than to use the pathway to reach west Thiruvottiyur". Pointing out that most streetlights are damaged, Sowmiya says rail users are managing with the lighting from the industries adjacent to the station.

Many commuters also expressed anxiety about the lack of security during evening hours when both the station and the approach roads wear a deserted look.

Tamilarasi, one of the regular commuters to Gummidipoondi, says that though the authorities concerned claim that cases of theft have come down in the area, fear of theft has a powerful impact on the minds of passengers who travel alone at night.

"In fact, we don't even have proper parking facility at the station. A small portion outside the station has been allotted for parking of two-wheelers only," she added.

Another major problem faced by rail users is the traffic congestion in the manual level crossing, due to which motorists are subjected to long wait for at least half hour, especially during peak hours.

A police official says that with major industries such as the Madras Refineries Limited, the Madras Fertilizers Limited and the Indian Oil Corporation situated in the vicinity, about eight lakh vehicles utilise the level crossing a month.

Many residents complain that the level crossing gets shut even 10 minutes before the train crosses the track, which causes long delays for road users.

Rajeswari, a resident, says the long-pending demand for a road over bridge to facilitate traffic snarls is yet to be taken up.

In the year of `Passenger Amenities', the authorities have to take necessary action to improve the condition in the stations to attract more commuters, residents emphasise.

However, the railway authorities said, very few cases of theft have been reported in the past few months and steps would be taken to widen the approach roads to provide better facilities to commuters.

The construction of a road over bridge would be considered, the officials added.

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