At the moment, many citizens of Chennai detest the thought of taking the MRTS suburban train for daily commute due to its poor maintenance, risk of safety for men and women alike and the lack of last-mile connectivity. Over the next 2 years, all this could change significantly. With a number of retail and F&B outlets ready to serve passengers and the public at large, the MRTS stations could be the new go-to destination of Travel Retail in Chennai.
In what could be one of the most dynamic ways of running mass public transportation systems in India, Chennai could be leading the way in working hand in-hand between Public undertakings.
Mass Rapid Transport System was an ambitious project that came to life in the late 90s and during the early 2000s, much was spoken about the future of this. In fact, many tamil films featured the (once) plush stations in their films with none other than Actor Kamal Hassan dancing away on a train even as it enters the station in a song in his yesteryear film Avvai Shanmugi.
The differentiating factor was that the on-ground suburban train system went up in the air – the flying track, as it was then known. Starting from the Beach Station in north Chennai (Madras back then!), winding all the way through the city’s prominent parts with 18 stations in between, the track ends near the IT hotbed Taramani + Velachery. The pillars carrying the tracks were built on the Cooum river, much to the amusement and chagrin of the public. From Velachery, the track was to connect the station in the other line at St. Thomas Mt. 25 years later, the last leg is finally getting done after a long battle of court cases.
CMRL, the company that runs the Metro rail is said to take over the project and manage the operations including train scheduling and station management. CMDA, the nodal development authority of the city would manage the commercial leasing and management of the premises (including several hundred acres of land collectively) surrounding each station. An in-principle go ahead has been provided by Southern Railway to implement the same.
“We will develop the stations and areas around them, as well as office spaces and business centres,” said Jeyakumar. “Most of these stations are in remote locations. We wanted to improve the environment. An MoU was drafted and is with the housing and urban development department”, said Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA), special officer Mr. I Jeyakumar.
Once developed, these stations could not only satiate the needs of the travelling public but also those residing in neighbourhoods. Cities like Bangkok, Singapore and many others in China have sweat this asset so well, with several of them offering 24/7 food and beverage as well. Hope to see a shining example that Chennai would offer to the rest of India in times to come.