Many years after it was drawn up as a transport solution for fast developing localities of South East Chennai, the Mass Rapid Transit System is all set to operate between the planned destinations of Chennai Beach and Velachery from today, November 19, 2007.
The Hindu has published many reports on the suburban railway, including the time-table (Excel format) for the new service. The Indian Railways Fan Club has a useful map of the Chennai suburban rail system here, although with the opening of the new line upto Velachery, it may require an update. What makes this map different is that it incorporates, a la London tube maps, the stations where interchanges to different lines are available (but don’t expect escalators, high speed movement and clear direction signs!).
To be sure, there are many things that are far from perfect about the MRTS. The alignment of the service is one of the major problems. The truculent and even recalcitrant attitude of the MTC on the question of integrating bus and MRTS/Suburban rail services waits to be sorted out. The lack of modernisation of the MRTS/Suburban railway stations and their desolate appearance, poor maintenance and forbidding dark recesses strike fear among many travellers and remain serious obstacles to its success. Train information systems and announcements are practically non-existent. The Chennai Corporation is yet to complete approach roads to many stations on the line and appears to be in no hurry to do so. These problems to the service are not going to disappear anytime soon.
But what is equally true in today’s Chennai is that for once, you have a train link between areas such as Velachery, Perungudi, Indira Nagar, Kasturba Nagar, Kotturpuram, Greenways Road, Thiruvanmiyur and Sardar Patel Road and the erstwhile central business district of Parrys and Beach that slices through a gridlocked city in a maximum of 40 minutes from end to end. One train every 15 to 20 minutes depending on the hour, an end-to-end fare of Rs. 7 (much less pro rata for monthly passes) and service on all days is indeed an advance over the unpleasant monopoly of the MTC in this part of the city. Also gone is the suffocating influence of the autorickshaws, which can now be used as a feeder transport to the stations, rather than to travel long distances. Every additional option makes them compete, and acts to stabilise the price of travel. Overall, there is the promise of reduced strain on the purse.
There was reason to be disappointed with the original decision of the Railway Ministry and the Tamil Nadu Government, not to operate from Beach beyond 8.30 p.m. and from Velachery beyond 9.15 p.m. These were the last trains out of the termini. But then, there are suburban trains touching Tambaram, Gummidipoondi and Thiruvallur till midnight, and again resuming at 4 a.m. Only if the MRTS operates to the same timings can there be full connectivity between these far-flung but densely populated suburbs.
On April 18, 2008 the time-table was changed, I believe, for the worse. During three hours of the day, you have only one train every 30 minutes, and for another three hours, one every 20 minues. (See the Straphanger Blog, link at bottom, for details).
Also, many commuters will legitimately expect that their Railway Minister, Mr. Velu who takes pride in Tamil Nadu’s perceived stature among different states, is influential enough to get them the new design coaches for the MRTS and suburban railways. At present, these so-called modernised, Siemens-designed coaches are being shipped from Chennai’s Integral Coach Factory for the Mumbai suburban railway. Mr. Minister, we welcome your positive intent, outlined during a recent media tour, but will we get some sympathetic attention on a time-bound basis?
Update: How much does a pass cost to use the MRTS to various places, such as Tambaram, Arakkonam, Gummidipoondi and Sulurpet? You can see the pass fare here.
I am trying out a new Nokia 3500C for images and video. Here’s a sample of an MRTS train pulling out of Fort Station on its last leg to Beach.
சென்னை கடற்கரை – வேளச்சேரி பறக்கும் ரயில் (MRTS) இன்று முதல் இயக்க படுகிறது.
இனி ஆட்டோ தகராறு தேவை இல்லை. பஸ்ஸை நம்பி இருக்க வேண்டியதில்லை. ஏழு ரூபாய் கொடுத்து ஒரு முனையிலிருந்து இன்னொரு முனைக்கு பிரயாணம் செய்யலாம். இந்த புதிய ரயிலின் கால அட்டவணை தி ஹிந்து பத்திரிக்கை தனது இணைய தளத்தில் பிரசுரம் செய்திரிக்கிறது. அதனை இங்கு நீங்கள் download செய்யலாம்.
A dedicated blog on MRTS, suburban rail and bus travel has been opened at http://straphanger.wordpress.com. The newly linked tariff for rail passes to various locations on Chennai’s suburban railways and MRTS is available on this blog.
Find much more on all commuting concerns there!