Covered with a thick layer of mud and vegetation, landmark structures at the Royapuram Railway Station pose a picture of abject neglect and are in dire need of a new lease of life.
The first train in South India chugged out from this station, which is a significant chapter in the history of Chennai, which The Illustrated London News magazine had eloquently narrated in its edition dated September 6, 1856.
Madras should have been bestowed with the honour of housing the first railway station in the country, if a proposal for setting up a rail system here in 1832 had materialised.
Despite holding a survey for building a railroad between Madras and Bangalore, the proposal was dropped four years later, even as other proposals were forwarded to the British East India Company.
It was the mercantile community of Madras Presidency, which lobbied for rail connectivity, opening the windows for railways in South India. This opened a new chapter in the history of the then Madras with the Royapuram railway station being inaugurated on June 28, 1856 by the then Governor of Madras, Lord Harris.
About 156 years later, the station sandwiched between the Bay of Bengal and a century-old vehicular bridge has turned into a symbol of apathy, neglect and poor attention towards conserving our heritage.
A building in the station — believed to be the railways office during the British era, is deserted with the historical monument in shambles. The wooden staircase leading to the first floor has been covered with mud for several decades now.
The historical railway station may get a new lease of life with the former Minister for Railways, Dinesh Trivedi proposing in the Parliament to undertake a pre-feasibility study for the development of Royapuram Railway Station this year.
In fact, the announcement in the Lok Sabha came against the backdrop of a series of agitations carried out by the Tamilnadu Rail Passengers’ Right Tribune, pressing for upgrading the railway station into a terminal during the last few years. The representatives from the tribune also met the railway authorities in New Delhi, twice in the last couple of months, in this connection.
If the proposal gets through, the vast railway station that is spread across an area of 72 acres near the Harbour will house the fourth terminal of Chennai, after Central, Egmore and the terminal at Tambaram, which is currently construction currently.