Kodambakkam to Egmore for Rs.14, with a Metro ride thrown in!


Chennai Metro : Underground stations look posh, but attract few passengers because they cannot be accessed from residential areas easily. Photo: G. Ananthakrishnan

Can you travel from Kodambakkam in South Chennai to Dasaprakash on Poonamallee High Road (E.V.R Periyar High Road) at just Rs. 14, throwing in a short hop on the Chennai Metro also?

Surprisingly, this is what the ride costs.

If you are anywhere in a radius of 500 to 800 metres of the Kodambakkam Suburban Rail Station, it is just a ten minute walk to get there. With a five rupee ticket, you reach Chennai Egmore, where there a convenient transit point to the Chennai Metro.

Without really stepping out of the complex, you reach the Metro station, and swiping your card, make a fast hop to Nehru Park on P.H. Road on the air-conditioned train. Ticket price: Rs.9. The Dasaprakash junction is a five minute walk down the road, north.

So this is actually a very feasible ride.

Of course, this experience poses several questions. When you arrive in the granite-clad confines of the “subway” Chennai Metro, you see that it is almost empty, even at 6 in the evening. Was Metro built only to take passengers from Central to the Airport? No, but that is effectively the use it is being put to. Of course, some go to the bus terminal CMBT at Koyambedu.

Does it have to be like this?

Of course not. But then, there is a big policy logjam that is preventing a change.

MTC has all but withdrawn except on arterial routes, and pulled out its small buses that should be going into residential areas. The fuel price hike is adding to its agony, compounding the mismanagement it suffers from.

By autorickshaw, it takes between Rs.25 and Rs. 50 to get to the nearest station – whether Metro, Suburban or MRTS – from these areas, and that’s not attractive at all. With that money, you an ride not less than 15 km on a two-wheeler.

Next, although private share autos (8-seater) are found in several locations in Chennai, there is no official scheme for them to operate. So organised investors cannot put their money into this sector. So the unlicensed ones serve just a few places, and not all rail stations. The amended Motor Vehicles Act aimed to change all that, but it has run into legislative trouble in the Rajya Sabha.

Planned commutes using the Metro are thus ruled out.

No Metro connect

In the meanwhile, the executives who run Chennai Metro are making weak attempts to help themselves – with no results. They should have simply contracted their own own mini-buses and run them across a 3 km radius, with a distinctive branding – Pink and Green colour for the service – which they could call “Metro Connect”. If it is treated as an extension of the Metro, and registered as taxis, it may pass legal muster. It also raises the profile of the nearly $3 billion project. Most important, it would put the system to optimal use with a small additional feeder link fare.

Currently, they have a handful of ramshackle Share Autorickshaws and a few taxis on contract, but the arrangement seems to help the operators more than commuters. When you guarantee a rental for the vehicle, where is the incentive for it to operate at all? On the contrary, if it had been compensated on the basis of tickets – bought using an app – with an OTP (an Ola-type service), the operator would have kept it moving.

For now, though, the Chennai Metro is just a flashy successor to the MRTS, another epitome of neglect by the Indian Railways and the Tamil Nadu government. It has big ghostly stations, and few passengers like the MRTS did for years and still does in some places.

But let’s keep our fingers crossed. Maybe someone will see the light.

[This has been republished with permission from the popular blog Straphangers United; the original post can be viewed here.]

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About G Ananthakrishnan 15 Articles
Ananthakrishnan is a journalist based in Chennai. He was a senior editor at The Hindu, writing for the opinion pages. He held news management positions at the newspaper. His interests are in the intersection of urban affairs, welfare, the environment and development, and explores this from policy, governance and public engagement perspectives.