“It is extremely stressful to cross the Guindy race course stretch to get on to the foot over bridge (FoB) from the Guindy bus stop and board the metro at the Guindy Metro station or an EMU, especially during peak traffic hours in the morning and evening,” says G Nandini, a college student, who uses buses and the Metro to travel to her college in Teynampet.
While the new foot over bridge was a welcome addition to the area that was meant to help pedestrians, the design falls short of serving its complete purpose.
The new FoB inaugurated in January 2023 should have been connected to the Guindy Race Course bus stop at the Race Course Gate and on the first floor of the Guindy Metro Rail station, in addition to the Electric-Multiple Unit Rail (EMU) platforms and either side of the station.
This would have helped commuters easily access all the various modes of public transport available to them.
The new FoB as it stands still requires commuters to cross the busy road below where the traffic poses serious dangers for pedestrians.
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Issues with traffic close to the Guindy race course
Santhanam, a regular user of EMUs, travels from Adambakkam by bus to reach Guindy.
“Without proper facilities to get to the transit points, every day we get scolded by bus and vehicle users for holding up traffic which piles up at the Guindy Taluk Office because of people crossing at this stretch which takes a lot of time during peak hours,” says Santhanam.
“As there is no two-wheeler parking on this stretch of the railway station, they are parked outside the new bridge haphazardly. These issues along with the vendors occupying road space add to the traffic woes. Somedays crossing this 100-metre stretch will take a minimum of 15 minutes during peak hours,” says M Chandrakumar, a car driver who uses the stretch regularly.
Ram, an MTC bus driver navigating the chaos of morning traffic in the area, says, “Drivers find it very difficult to manoeuvre this small stretch which is always bustling with activity. The crossing has become very difficult to drive through as we do multiple trips every shift. A traffic cop must be posted to regulate traffic and prevent the piling up of vehicles on both sides.”
“Pedestrians get injured during peak traffic hours while trying to cross this stretch because there is no signal or a traffic cop to regulate traffic. We do some basic first aid and send them to a hospital nearby for further treatment,” says a vendor near the area.
Another vendor complains that only whenever there is any VIP movement or any demonstration near the Race Course, do the issues in the area get attention and are taken care of.
Issues with the new foot over bridge in Guindy
Issues with foot over bridge, both old and new, have been constant for commuters who pass through Guindy.
The old FoB at Guindy Railway station connecting EMU platforms and the northern and southern sides of the railway station is in a state of disrepair, with a congested walkway. Those using the FoB are accosted by people seeking alms, foul smell from the public toilets nearby and spit-stained walls.
The new foot over bridge was supposed to provide an antidote to these problems.
“The old FOB was not being maintained properly by the Southern Railways and we have been waiting for this new FoB to open,” says Santhanam.
A group of commuters, including Santhanam, reached out to the authorities to offer their comments on the design of the new FoB. The commuters wanted the FoB to be connected with the bus stop. The commuters also requested that an elevator and escalator also be included as part of the design.
But these suggestions seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
The elderly and those with disabilities have been most affected by the ill-thought-out design of the new foot over bridge.
K Ananthanarayanan and his wife A Rukmani, a senior citizen couple from Maduvinkari use the metro to reach Thousand Lights as part of their social service in a nearby hospital.
They have been affected by the lack of facilities and connection with the new foot over bridge.
“Every day we are forced to climb up and down the stairs and cross heavy traffic to get to the Metro station. If authorities can connect the ends of the Guindy MTC bus depot and the EMU, CMRL side with an elevator, and escalator, it would be really helpful to all of us as we can change from bus to Metro with ease,” they say.
R Sathish Kumar, a member of the Disability Right Alliance (DRA), says, “I have received feedback from many regular commuters from the area that both the old and the new FoBs are not accessible. They do not have lifts, escalators and easy access from both sides of the bus stop and EMU station. We will be taking up this issue of not having easy access for persons with disabilities in our next meeting with the authorities.”
The lack of consultation with end users has been pointed out by various stakeholders affected by the issue.
“The Southern Railway could have planned the construction of this FoB in consultation with the commuters of EMU, MTC and Metro Rail users taking into account their experiences and suggestions. Almost one lakh users traverse this stretch taking the MTC, EMU and Metro Rail but there is no link to the other side which creates chaos and traffic issues,” says Chandrakumar.
“The Railways while planning the new bridge should have come up with the connection to the southern side at the Race Course gate and also should have provided an elevator and escalator facility as many are not able to climb up and down the stairs,” says one of the vendors in the area.
When made aware of the various issues faced by commuters looking to access public transport at one of the key transit hubs that is Guindy, I Jeyakumar, Member Secretary, Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA) says, “The steps to address these issues have been planned already and there will be seamless connectivity with escalators and lifts for easy access. It is in the DPR stage and may take 12 to 15 months.”
N M Mylvahanan, Joint Commissioner of Police (JCoP), Traffic, says that the traffic police will be following up on the issues in the area and ensure the deployment of additional personnel until the problems with the FoB are addressed.
Navigating the city as pedestrians is no easy task. While infrastructure like foot over bridges is supposed to make the city safer, the lack of consultation with the users has caused more problems than it has solved in the case of Guindy.