While the pandemic saw some slump in ridership, the patronage seen by Chennai Metro has been on the rise in recent months. With all lines in Phase I and its extensions operational, the Metro saw a footfall of 1.5 lakhs on a daily basis for the month of April.
Proposed measures such as the merger of the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) with the Metro could further boost connectivity in the city and create an integrated public transport system. Phase II of Chennai Metro, which will link key areas such as the IT corridor to the rest of the city, is scheduled to be completed by 2026.
Chennai Metro Phase I improved connectivity
The Phase I of the Chennai Metro Rail project covers a length of 45.046 km network with two Corridors, i.e. Corridor I – From Washermenpet to Airport (23.085 Km) and Corridor II – from Chennai Central to St. Thomas Mount (21.961 km). Out of 32 stations in Phase I, 13 are elevated stations and the remaining 19 are underground stations.
The first underground line between Thirumangalam Metro Station and Nehru Park Metro Station was inaugurated on May 14, 2017. The underground stretches – Nehru Park Metro Station to Chennai Central Metro Station and Saidapet Metro Station to AG-DMS Metro Station were opened a year later on May 25, 2018. On February 10, 2019, the underground stretch from AG-DMS to Washermenpet was opened, completing a 45 km network under the Phase I of the Metro Rail Project.
The Phase I extension from Washermenpet to Wimco Nagar was commissioned and opened for the public on February 14, 2021 except for Thiruvottiyur Theradi station and Wimco Nagar depot station. The remaining two stations were commissioned on March 13, 2022.
P Ramesh, a city resident from Chrompet, said that the Metro rail service has increased connectivity and serves as an alternative mode of transportation. “With increasing fuel cost, metro rails escape the office goers from daily traffic congestion. Once Phase II is implemented, we expect the connectivity would increase more,” he added.
What is happening in Phase II now?
Phase II has been planned for a length of 118.9 Km network with 128 stations. It consists of three Corridors i.e. Corridor III from Madhavaram to SIPCOT (45.8 Km), Corridor IV from Lighthouse to Poonamalle Bypass (26.1 Km), Corridor V from Madhavaram to Sholinganallur (47 Km). The estimated cost of the project is Rs 63,246 crore.
Funding for a portion of Chennai Metro Rail Phase II (i.e. 52.01 Km, i.e. Madhavaram – Sholinganallur of Corridor III and Madhavaram – CMBT of Corridor V) will come from a partnership with Japanese International Cooperation Agency as a State Sector Project. For the remaining portion, the Screening Committee of Department of Economic Affairs has accorded in principle approval for funding of the entire Corridor IV and balance section of Corridor III & V by Multilateral Banks.
Apart from the Inter-Corridor interchange stations in Alandur and Chennai Central from Phase I, the Phase II would have eight Inter-Corridor interchange stations namely, Madhavaram, Kilpauk, Thousand Lights, Mylapore, Sholinganallur, Nandhanam, Vadapalani and Porur.
Officials from Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) said that the project is proposed to be completed by the end of 2026. While soil tests have been completed in all the areas, detailed design works that were awarded in 2018 are in the advanced stage of completion. Meanwhile, tenders have been awarded for 11 of the total 19 civil packages and one of the 5 track packages and the works are underway.
Tender finalisation is underway for the other portions. The officials further added that traffic diversions have been made only in areas where there was not enough space for barricading and vehicular movements and once the constructions are done, it would ease the traffic.
Feasibility studies will also be carried out to extend Phase II up to Sriperumbudur via Thirumazhisai. An announcement was made by Tamil Nadu’s Finance Minister PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan that the studies will look at extending Corridor IV of Phase ll. Corridor V of Phase ll could also be extended from Thirumangalam to Avadi. Corridor III may also see extension to Kelambakkam and a further line linking this to the Kilambakkam bus terminus post feasibility study.
Tunnel boring machines for the construction of 48 underground stations will arrive in the city by August, with boring activities to take place from September.
Residents’ grouse with Chennai Metro Phase II
Developmental projects aimed at easing traffic congestion and improving connectivity have always taken a toll on the daily life of the commuters. Chennai Metro Rail Phase II carried out across the city is no different.
According to a commuter, one K Senthil, who works at a food delivery firm, diversions of routes near Powerhouse in Kodambakkam where the metro rail works are underway, has led to bottleneck traffic during peak hours. “Vehicles move at a snail’s pace amidst heavy traffic with buzzing horns. Even if I start my day fresh, the traffic and the noise causes irritation. Be it the scorching sun or the heavy downpour, it only adds to the woes,” he said, adding that making the Vadapalani to Powerhouse stretch a one-way road has only increased the traffic congestion.
J Usha, yet another commuter, said that the dust caused by such projects is yet another issue. “While navigating through narrow roads amidst the traffic is hard enough, the dust and other pollution caused by such projects affects the health of the public. Though the metro fares are quite affordable and it improves the connectivity, dust, congestion and noise pollution increases during the implementation,” she added.
Metro construction has also come under criticism for taking over parks and green spaces in the city. A portion of T.Nagar’s Panagal Park has been taken over by the CMRL for construction during Phase II with felling of trees. Residents voiced opposition to the move as this would make the park inaccessible for a period of time. A similar case of CMRL taking over Thiru Vi Ka Park only to leave it with less green cover than promised has made residents of the area wary of such a move.
Phase II is also seeing legal challenge as petitioners moved the Madras High Court to order a stay in the work on Phase II, Corridor V as the project would affect seven temples including the Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore and Murugan Temple in Vadapalani and called for carrying out social and environmental impact assessment. The High Court has issued a notice to the respondents to file a reply on the issue.
Despite objections from certain quarters, the impetus given to Metro construction in the city has not slowed down. The State Government move to increase the Floor Space Index along metro corridors and the prospect of better connectivity city-wide along with the promise of an integrated transport model all make it clear that the state looks to the Metro as a key component of public transport in Chennai.