CHENNAI:If the crowds on the first Sunday after the Chennai Metro Rail was inaugurated are anything to go by, the latest addition to the city’s urban transport mode is the new weekend picnic destination, what with air-conditioned trains, swanky stations with escalators and a Kollywood ‘foreign song shoot’ feel to the atmosphere.
City Express took a ride on the Metro on Sunday afternoon and discovered that Koyambedu and Alandur, the current terminal stations, were choc-a-bloc with families, including awestruck children and the equally inquisitive elderly, all carrying water bottles and soft drinks . This is a Sunday sight normally witnessed at the Marina and Besant Nagar beaches as far as the city is concerned.
“You can go there and sit ma. That is the ladies coach, exclusively for you,” said a middle-aged man coaxing two elderly ladies standing near the automatic doors towards the ladies coach. As soon as they left, the man exchanged a smile with his teenage son, grinning at his father’s ploy of getting a ‘window’ seat on their first metro ride. The rest of their journey to Alandur was spent discussing the imported machinery, urban transport and Make in India, with the son resting his hand on his father’s shoulder. A few feet beside them, a young couple alternated between Telugu and English, discussing how sky scrapers higher than the metro corridor had become the norm in this part of the city.
One could also spot entire familes with children, parents and grand children who had packed lunches for what seemed like a half day picnic on the Metro Rail. As the train whizzed past the Koyambedu market, a nostalgic mother narrated tales of her childhood visit to the market, to her son seated beside her.
When the train crossed Vadapalani station, an elderly couple enquired with others if the Murugan temple could be viewed from the train. Social media is sure to be flooded with a number of selfies taken at the Metro Rail stations. At the Alandur station, given its elevation, one can get a closer view of jets descending towards the Chennai Airport which seem bigger and this was a major excitement for kids and elders alike.
‘Crippled’ Amenities at Stations
Disability rights activists are unhappy with the Chennai Metro Rail citing a number of issues. “As things stand, a blind passenger or a traveller on a wheelchair will need to travel with an attendant which will cost double. A solo journey is impossible for them and hazardous for other disabled and elderly commuters,” said Vaishnavi Jayakumar, part of the Disability Rights Alliance (DRA), which has been engaging with the CMRL since 2011 on accessibility compliance. “There is a gap between the train and the platform and the front wheel of my wheelchair got stuck in it. The stick of a visually challenged person also went into it,” said Smita Sadashivan, another member of the DRA. There were other issues as well, such as the ticket counter being too high for a wheelchair bound person, narrow doors at places and difficulties at the disabled-friendly toilets, which were raised by the team from DRA which audited the facilities at the stations two days ago.
“The slippery floors on stations is a hazard for crutch users and the chairs on the stations need arms for stability when used by senior citizens, pregnant women and elderly,” she said.