CMRL’s holds payment of Supervision Fee to SR for FOBs; claims it would benefit Suburban Train system too

CHENNAI: Two years after Chennai Metro Rail Ltd came up with plans to construct foot over-bridges (FOBs) to link metro stations in Guindy and St Thomas Mount with the suburban train stations nearby, the projects haven’t taken off as Southern Railway insists that the transport authority make an up-front payment of Rs 36 lakh towards ‘supervision charges’ for its engineers to direct work.

A request in May from CMRL to the Southern Railway chief, R K Kulshrestha, seeking a waiver of the “departmental charges” appears to have been lost in transit. Status remains “under process” in the general manager’s office, railway sources said.

The Southern Railway administration, they said, is in no mood to move the files quickly unless CMRL makes an initial payment of Rs 36 lakh, or 2% of the CMRL deposit of around Rs 18 crore for the two over-bridges, which CMRL aims to build, with seven escalators.

In its letter to Kulshrestha in May, CMRL argued that Southern Railways should waive the payment because the FOBs would be amenities that benefit suburban railway commuters too.

The proposed Guindy FOB, connecting the suburban and metro stations and extending on either side, would allow commuters to head to either Race Course Road or Anna Salai. Commuters now get to Race Course Road via a footbridge at the southern end of the suburban station.

Commuters also use the footbridge to get from Race Course Road to Anna Salai through a path from the suburban station, making it jam-packed during peak hours.

People who use the suburban station have repeatedly called for a wider foot over-bridge at the station — a demand that peaked after 23 people died in a stampede at Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road Station in September.

Some railway officials familiar with the situation are concerned that monetary benefits have taken precedence over passenger safety. “CMRL plans to construct escalators at either end of the bridge, a facility that the railways has not provided at major suburban stations,” a senior railway official said.

The delayed FOBs also highlight the biggest hitch in the integration of different modes of transport in Chennai: a complete lack of coordination between CMRL, Southern Railway and Metropolitan Transport Corporation.

It was reported how the railways and MTC fail to complement each other when, for instance, track maintenance work causes cancellation of suburban trains. CMRL and MTC have also started to design a common ticketing system without involving Southern Railway, despite a significant number of the 1.1 million daily users of suburban trains requiring other modes of transport for last-mile connectivity.