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Vol. XXXIII No. 3, May 16-31, 2023
This month, the city will be given a brand new skywalk in T.Nagar courtesy the Greater Chennai Corporation. It will connect the Mambalam railway station to the bus stand near the Madley junction in a bid to alleviate the traffic congestion caused by pedestrian crowds on the roads. 570m long and 4.3m wide, the skywalk will provide commuters with a range of facilities that includes escalators, elevators, restrooms, connectivity to the railway station and the bus stand as well as CCTV surveillance that feeds into the Mambalam police station.According to reports, it is set to be the longest skywalk of its kind in the country. In a quote to the media, Chief Engineer S. Rajendran said, “The multi-modal project connects the railway station and bus stand. It will help pedestrians. People who reach the city from the southern parts of the state find it difficult to commute to the station and the bus stand due to the gathering at Ranganathan Street, which gets too crowded during festivals like Deepavali. People had to throng through the crowded street with their heavy bags to reach their point, and we believe this exclusive pedestrian skywalk will help them overcome those issues,” he said. “We plan to place some wheelchairs for differently-abled people. If people find it difficult to walk that long, we have plans to have a walkalator, which is commonly seen in airports, and depending on the strength of the structure, probably, a battery vehicle as well, but these are just initial thoughts. It will be challenging to maintain them properly as they are usually used in closed spaces. An idea to build a similar skywalk at some other point is on the proposal. Let’s see how it goes.”
Decongesting the city’s roads is a key agenda item for the administration. T. Nagar particularly has long been the city’s problem child as far as traffic is concerned, for it was not planned to handle the heavy commercialization it now bears. The issue of illegal commercial constructions has had a grave impact on civic amenities as well. Neither were these problems recognised early on nor are they addressed satisfactorily now. Had they been handled, it is arguable that T. Nagar wouldn’t be buckling under such severe congestion.
As far as solutions go, however, skywalks at busy junctions can certainly help solve the issue while easing commutes for both vehicles and pedestrians. Urban mobility goes beyond creating space for the movement of vehicles on roads; the modern city offers people a variety of travel options, which includes making walking an attractive option. Skywalks fit the bill, for they give commuters a safe option to navigate the city without contending with vehicular traffic. They also help connect public transport more easily for people making their way to train or bus stations. The only catch? Safety and accessibility have historically been a concern with skywalks.
According to past surveys conducted in major Indian metros, the sheer number of steps that commuters need to climb to access the sky bridge has been a put off. They also tend to become shelters for the unprivileged, such as the homeless or pan handlers; concerningly, they tend to attract anti-social elements, too. Coupled with poor maintenance in lighting and cleanliness, most commuters prefer to use the roads, especially at times when skywalks are likely to be lonely. In fact, these are reportedly the reasons why skywalks in Bangalore and Mumbai are rather neglected by their citizens.
Chennai should, therefore, take a beat to feel proud about the new skywalk at T. Nagar. The GCC has taken steps to address these barriers to usage by investing in facilities that strengthen both accessibility and safety – the escalator, elevator and CCTV security feed are certainly a good move. It will be exciting to see how many patrons the new skywalk attracts, for if successful, the model can be a boon at multiple hotspots across the city.