Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXXIII No. 22, March 1-15, 2024

CMRL – planning in hindsight

-- by Sriram V.

Work on the second phase of the Metrorail is on in full swing. It is understood that the powers that be are very keen that the work should be completed by 2026 when the State Assembly elections are scheduled to take place. If executed satisfactorily by then, everyone can take credit – the State Government for adhering to the deadline and the Centre for releasing funds on time. If the work prolongs then resort can be had to blame games. But what is causing concern at ground level is that there are numerous oversights and faulty assumptions especially where it concerns the smooth flow of traffic. These are likely to flare up soon into perennial hotspots for logjams. And that is forcing the authorities to look for answers that needed to have been thought of before work began.

That all is not well with what was planned earlier has become manifest in the numerous public consultation meetings that are ongoing with representatives of the ward councillors, officials of the Greater Chennai Corporation and the Chennai Metropolitan Transport Corporation. It has emerged that the initial surveys undertaken, and the first set of diversions unveiled have proved faulty to say the least. And with traffic piling up, new, and pretty drastic plans, are underway. Not all of these are necessarily in consultation with the affected parties, namely property owners whose land may have to be taken over for such schemes to become reality.

The State authorities have announced that areas such as Mylapore, San Thome, Adyar and Anna Nagar where Metrorail work is on will soon have new link roads to ease vehicular congestion. The question is, where are these going to be laid? It is very likely that the victims will be parks, natural features such as the Adyar Creek, and private property owners who for no fault of theirs happen to be in the way of a huge city project. The other question is, what is going to be the cost of acquisition of such land and also the cost of laying those link roads? The third aspect is time. None of these is going to happen overnight. There are bound to be legal tangles and protests which will delay matters. Has CMRL thought through all this?

Any disruptive but eventually beneficial scheme such as Metrorail ought to have been planned right down to the last detail before commencement. And given that we already have the experience of phase I behind us, should we not have been prepared better for phase II? Why then were link roads not planned before work began? Would that not have eased matters and made for smooth progress? There are bound to be no answers to such questions.

With specific reference to the Mylapore-San Thome area where the congestion is very high and is only likely to worsen as the trenches advance towards the most crowded parts, it is a matter of surprise that CMRL did not consider aligning itself with the existing Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS). While it is true that the Anna Salai-Royapettah-Mylai link would still have to be established, expense and effort could have been saved on the Mylai-Adyar leg as the MRTS already services it. It would have made perfect sense, for the overhead but underutilised facility already exists. Work on the underground section could have been completely avoided this way.

Taken overall we seem to be in for some major delays in the execution of Metrorail in phase II. The sadder aspect is that this could have been avoided with some foresight based on prior experience.

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