Tambaram’s transformation into a bustling suburb in the past few decades has been nothing short of remarkable. The creation of Tambaram Municipal Corporation has been a recent development that signals the growth of the area.
With the increase in population comes the need for better infrastructure, services and connectivity. Connectivity has been a hurdle that the suburb has yet to solve, with residents’ demands for more trains and buses a constant.
Recently, the residents saw success with Tambaram station becoming one of the stops for the Tejas Express, the semi-high-speed train running between Chennai and Madurai.
This achievement was the result of efforts spanning multiple years by residents committed to the cause. This included setting up meetings with elected representatives and railway officials, filing RTIs and highlighting our needs through the media.
Need for Tejas Express stoppage in Tambaram
In 2019, Dhanuvel Raja, a friend and resident of Guduvanchery took the Tejas Express from Madurai to Chennai. The train reached Egmore around 9.30 pm he was able to get to his house in Guduvanchery at 11.30 pm after a two-hour commute.
This trek to his house was an entirely wasteful journey that could have been avoided had the train stopped at the Tambaram station. Without this stoppage, commuters who reside in the suburbs are forced to come into Chennai city and then travel back to their homes, late at night. There are also safety concerns, especially for women commuters, in trying to find a means of transport to the suburbs at night.
For residents of Tambaram, taking the Tejas Express out of Chennai in the mornings is also out of the question. Since the train departs from Egmore at 6 am, Tambaram residents would be forced to leave their homes at around 4.30 am and spend at least Rs 1000 out of pocket on cabs to get to Egmore on time.
These issues have prevented Tambaram residents from making use of the Tejas Express, despite the train passing through the Tambaram station which has an annual footfall of 7.5 crores.
After the conversation with Dhanuvel on this issue, I looked into the number of stoppages of the other Tejas Express train running in the country.
The Tejas Express from Mumbai to Karimali had eight stops, starting from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus with stops at Dadar, which is nine km away and Thane, which is 34 km away. These stoppages ensure that residents in the suburbs of Mumbai are also able to make use of the train.
In contrast, the Tejas Express from Chennai had its first intermediate stop at Tiruchirapalli, which is 336 km away.
Residents of the suburbs were completely cut off from being able to use the Tejas Express unless they travelled into Chennai.
Efforts to bring Tejas Express to Tambaram
Identifying the issue, a group of residents of Tambaram banded together and first petitioned the Railway Minister in November 2019. The response we received was that the matter will be put forth for consideration before the Railway Board, which is the decision-making authority.
In order to know the status of Tejas Express stoppage for Tambaram, I filed an RTI in February 2020. The reply to the RTI showed that a recommendation letter had been sent by the Chief Passenger Transportation Manager (CPTM) of Southern Railways to the Railway Board in November 2019 requesting a two-minute stoppage of the Tejas Express both ways in order to facilitate commuter patronage of the train.
With this RTI reply, we petitioned the Prime Minister in March 2020 requesting the Railway Board to approve the stoppage of Tejas Express in Tambaram. We received a reply stating that our petition was forwarded to Railway Board for appropriate action.
Despite the promising developments, there was little sign that the stoppage approval will be granted.
In February 2021, we filed a second RTI to know the status of the Railway Board approval on the Tejas Express stoppage.
In a shocking turn of events, the reply to the RTI stated that the Railway Board had not held any meetings to discuss the stoppage of the Tejas Express in Tambaram and that the move has not been approved by the Railway Board.
With this setback, we decided to try a different approach.
An RTI was filed in May 2022 seeking information on seat vacancies in Tejas Express for the years 2019, 2020, 2021 and up to April 2022.
From the reply to this RTI, we were able to infer that the Tejas Express had made a calculated ticket revenue loss of around Rs 18 crore over the course of its 19-month run.
The seat vacancy figures for the train, both ways, stood as high as 40% for a few months.
We disseminated this information to the media and to the Railway officials of the Souther Railways to revive our demand for the stoppage of the train in Tambaram.
The issue of high seat vacancy and resultant revenue loss could be offset by the stoppage of the train in Tambaram. This was a win-win scenario for both the Railways and the commuters.
Our continued petitioning with the RTI data on seat vacancy and revenue loss saw a total of six recommendation letters forwarded by the Southern Railways to the Railway Board requesting the stoppage of the Tejas Express in Tambaram.
Tejas Express stops in Tambaram
In October 2022, we received word that the stoppage is under consideration by the Railway Board.
Wanting to explore all avenues to achieve the stoppage, we requested an audience with Dr L Murugan, MoS, Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying and Information & Broadcasting. During the meeting in December 2022, we raised the problems faced by residents in the suburbs due to Tejas Express not stopping in Tambaram. We received assurance that the matter will be taken up with Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.
Years of efforts bore fruit in February 2023, as we received word that the Railway Board had approved the stoppage of Tejas Express in Tambaram, with the approval letter being sent to the Southern Railways.
The residents of Tambaram who had been working to achieve this outcome were elated to see their success. Dr L Murugan flagged off the Tejas Express on its first stoppage in Tambaram on February 26, 2023.
Residents cheered as the much-awaited Tejas Express halted for two minutes at the Tambaram station, allowing thousands to save time and effort in getting to the train.
As proof of this, in under a month since the train began the additional halt, a total of 9275 passengers have used the train from Tambaram station.