Chennai Metro rising – will it ease road congestion?

Sriram Amarnath, a software engineer, has just returned to Chennai from the US after a gap of nearly five years. He was upset to see the congestion outside the airport due to the construction work going on with regard to the Chennai Metro Rail project.

But as he moved in to the city, he was awed looking at the magnitude and pace of the construction of the Rs 14,000 crore project, which is to help decongest the city roads and take care of the growing demand for the public transport system.

With the city’s current population of over 50 lakh, which is expected to reach 120 lakhs by 2026, the Chennai city is struggling to keep pace with the ever increasing traffic demand. In the past, every household used to have a vehicle. But, today, every member of the household is having a vehicle, putting enormous pressure on roads.

Further, over 3,200 buses move nearly 52 lakh passengers every day. All efforts of the government seem to be falling short to meet the ever increasing demand. School children dangerously clinging on the bus foot-board is a regular scene.

The Chennai Metro could thus become a major source of public transport system in future. It is going to be a part of an integrated multi-modal transport system along with the planned Mono Rail project, which is still in the drawing board stage. This is in addition to the strengthening of the sub-urban rail service, the Mass Rapid Transit System and the Metropolitan Transport System.

The Tamil Nadu government gave its in-principle approval for the Chennai Metro’s initial corridors in October 2007 and the Centre gave its nod in January 2009.

Project:  The project envisages creation of two initial corridors under the proposed phase-1 with a total of 45.1 km. The corridor from Washermenpet to Airport will be 23.1 km and the other corridor from Chennai Central to St Thomas Mount will be 22 km.

The portions of Corridor-1 with a length of 14.3 km from Washermanpet to Saidapet, and Corridor-2 with a length of 9.7 km from Chennai Central to Anna Nagar 2nd Avenue will be underground and the remaining portion will be elevated, says information available in the Chennai Metro web site.

Huge tunnel boring machines, including Chinese made, are continuously drilling the city’s hard soil to enable air-conditioned trains criss-cross the city underground in the next two to three years.

As on March 31, nearly 10 per cent of tunnelling work for the project has been completed. Out of the total 27,220 metres, tunnelling work of 2,731 metres has been completed.

Projects worth over Rs 10,000 crores have been awarded to various companies from countries like India, Russia, Germany, Japan, France and UK.

Important projects:

Source: Chennai Metro Rail Ltd

Share of public transport:  The Tamil Nadu government’s plan is to increase the share of the public transport system to 46 per cent from the present 7 per cent by 2026. The Chennai Metro project will play a huge role in this change.

Consider this data. The project is expected to remove around 13 lakh passengers from the road by 2026. Every year, it will save around 100 deaths happening due to road accidents and another 500 non-fatal accidents.

And, for a passenger travelling from the Koyambdeu market to Alandur, the journey time is 16 minutes from the present over an hour. Similarly, it will take just 40 minutes to reach the airport from Washermenpet in North Chennai as against nearly two hours by road, and around an hour by rail.

The Chennai Metro is following the example of the Delhi Metro Ltd, which incidentally is the primary consultant for the project in the first phase.

First train:  As per plan, the first metro train should start plying in 2015. Incidentally, the train, which is getting ready at Alstom’s manufacturing plant in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is expected to arrive in the city in June.

Track work:  Meanwhile, out of total plinth track of 10,577 track metre between Vadapalani and Koyambedu, work on about 9,800 track metre has been completed. A total of 1,586 joints for welding of tracks have been done, the Chennai Metro said.

Interestingly, for the first time in the country, the metro will go up to the airport. Sriram, who is leaving for the US in two weeks, hopes that he will again return to the city in three to four years to take the metro and reach his home in the heart of the city Egmore.