Chennai Metro rail completes formalities to open first line

Chennai (MAS): Metro rail’s first line has completed all formalities for commissioning. The 10km Koyambedu-Alandur line may get clearance for operation in a few days as the commissioner of metro rail safety (CMRS) inspected the line between Ashok Nagar and Alandur on Monday and Tuesday.

The government will be able to commission the line after the clearance comes. Sources say that the by-election in R K Nagar constituency may not be a stumbling block for the project to be opened by the state government as the election commission has notified exemptions to the ban on declaring new projects.

A senior official of metro rail said, “We expect the clearance to come anytime. The last of the inspections has been completed.” CMRS S K Mittal visited Ashok Nagar station, Sidco station and Alandur, and checked the line, electrical circuits and other systems.

Metro rail officials do not expect any objection from the safety commissioner, and considers the visit as more or less a formality as the ministry of urban development amended rules to allow single-line operation on the stretch in spite of a technical handicap caused by incomplete work.

The commissioner did not inspect the line from Ashok Nagar to Alandur when he arrived a few weeks ago to inspect trains and stations because a crossover line near Alandur metro station that allows trains to change track and return along the parallel track was not ready. “This is a necessity as per railway rules because trains are not allowed to run on single track back and forth. Now, the rule has been amended allowing such mode of operation to prevent the metro rail project from getting delayed,” said an official.

Services may get truncated because a train that reaches will have to use the same line to return to Ashok Nagar. This will affect frequency as trains cannot be run on Ashok Nagar-Alandur line till a train returns from Alandur.

Sources said the technical glitch happened because the construction contract for the elevated line got delayed though work was awarded five years ago. “This forced metro rail to drop St Thomas Mount (from the first operable stretch) and start pushing for opening of the line from Koyambedu to Alandur. But the line was not designed to allow trains to turnaround at Alandur,” said an official. Such ad hoc decision caused confusion, and the ministry amended the rules to prevent further delay.

Metro rail officials started sending documents to the commissioner of metro rail safety in January. Truck loads of paper containing drawings, designs and other details were sent to Bengaluru. Mittal conducted the first inspection in March, when he checked the trains. The second part of the safety audit inspection was held for two days, from April 20 when he checked Koyambedu, CMBT, Arumbakkam, Vadapalani and Ashok Nagar stations, besides tracks, operations control centre, train running procedures and depots.