Chennai Metro – New boy in town
Chennai transportation landscape has been a fine example of mix of road and rail transport moving masses in an economical way. City is blessed with a suburban rail system dating back to the 1920’s and over the period saw many new modes of transport like MRTS getting added and few like trams giving away. City expanding drastically, coupled with rapid economic activity, it was time for a rapid people mover system which inherited the best of world’s technology.
Metro rail wave having made its presence felt in the Metros of Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Jaipur finally decided to hit the shores of Namma Chennai. CMRL (Chennai Metro Rail Limited) the SPV formed for this purpose started the work in the year 2009 and project saw light with the commercial operations starting on 29th June 2015. This day will be a red letter day in the history of Chennai transportation when a new mode of transport is taking shape almost after a Century. ( I am discounting MRTS here, it being an ugly contraption of SR’s failed attempt on Mass transit system).
We at Team TNSTC blog were awaiting this very day as anything on wheels is dear to us and what better than introducing this fine masterpiece to the readers.
Chennai Metro Phase-1 which comprises of two corridors to a length of 45kms has a unique proposition of 55% of its length being underground. The Alandur – Koyembedu stretch running to a length of 10kms which has been opened to public is part of the green line which when fully opened will run from St. Thomas Mount to Chennai Central. The blue line which crisscrosses it at runs from Washermanpet to Chennai Airport. The newly opened corridor connects CMBT (Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus) and will prove a boon to the wary traveler once the whole network is in place.
We chose to visit the metro on next day of inauguration to avoid milling crowds and cover the Alandur – Koyembedu stretch. Arriving at Alandur station just an hour into its operation for the day, we were greeted with very lean crowd. Counter staff just a day old were getting a hang of things meddling with the new gizmos. Getting hold of the smart cards, we hit the concourse. CMRL offers one time use tokens and smart cards for the pax and smart cards offer a 10% discount on the journeys. Card recharge machines do the job as well.
Alandur is a huge two tier station and monster escalators lift you up to the third level where plies the green line. Pax-belonging check and access control turnstile take you to the platform area. Brightly lit displays guide pax through to the platforms.
CMRL has adopted a bare bones approach in designing the stations and structures don’t have a wow factor attached to them. Platform area is filled with user information board and public address system dishes out information on the upcoming schedules. Security personnel deployed guide the pax on the platform ensure them to fall behind the yellow line. Facility and rules being new, common Indian will take time to tame the kid in him. Platform area also has private bank ATM’s and commercial exploitation of the available infra will be a game changer.
With the announcement came the shining blue Alstom rake which will take us on the joyride to Koyembedu. Overhead traction is adopted by CMRL and rakes run on the standard gauge. Here, Delhi metro need to be commended, who could prove the point and break the shackles of BG and take the country towards stand gauge based rapid system.
4 car rakes are currently doing duty and stations are capable of handling 6 car rakes in future. New concept of “Special class” is introduced in CMRL (fares not clear though) with half a rake dedicated for it and has cushion seating. Ladies have a dedicated space in the rake as well and remaining rake forms the normal class. The concept of Special Class is not a great idea considering its non-existence on other Indian Metro systems. Another notable first in CMRL is the presence of luggage racks. Otherwise, the in-metro car announcements and digital scroll boards do the job of informing the pax of upcoming stations do job well. Trains breezed past five stations and dropped us at Koyembedu in 17 mins flat, not bad. Koyembedu also houses the CMRL administrative office and a huge yard.
Just into the second day of operation, decent office going crowds was a welcome sight. Few points that could not the miss sight were the pending works being carried out at stations which are nearing completion. MTC has no wonder turned the other way by not operating any feeder buses to Metro stations. Stations like Alandur which has in its backyard thickly populated areas will benefit much with MTC “Small buses” acting as feeder services.
With the launch of Metro, high time Chennai babus decide to have a unified transportation authority to help people travel seamless across modes.
In all, though a small 10km beginning, Chennai Metro for sure is going to herald a new travelling experience which will be fast, safe and efficient and will help cover the city with ease.
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Photos and Compilation: Subramanian & Senthil (Team TNSTC Blog)