It’s around 10 am on Sunday and an agitated homemaker, Vrinda, waits for the MRTS train at the Mylapore station — she needs to rush to Tambaram for some personal work. “The problem is not the frequency or the cost, it is just that these stations are abandoned. As you can see, there is hardly anyone around, and it’s a bit scary,” she says, pointing to a group of men standing nearby.
People may recall that there was even a murder at the Greenways Road station few years ago — after which the poor lighting and isolated approach paths came under criticism from all sides.
While the rates charged for a ride start at a reasonable Rs 5, isolated parking lots, locked toilets, broken staircases and non-working escalators are some of the common woes faced by commuters in MRTS stations.
“There is always a chance that you will miss the train climbing the stairs. These are the reasons why people opt for other modes of transport,” adds Vrinda, before boarding the train. When asked for comments, the station superintendent just had a smile to offer. Praveen Kumar, an IT employee, who usually boards the train from Taramani said that while the cleanliness in stations has improved over time, lack of accessibility makes it difficult for people to use the facility. “Since I work in Tidel Park I tend to use it every day. But if you’re living a little far and need to board a train from Thiruvanmiyur, there is not even a bus that takes you there. We have to shell out for an auto.”
While studies are being carried out to improve the multi-modal station, Raj Cherubal from Chennai City Connect says that unless the officials introduce commercial activities in the station, it will continue to lose boarders. “The MRTS spends Rs 7 crore a month on operations and earns only Rs 1 crore, which is fine. But if they commercialise it and bring food plazas and other activities inside the station, it will not only help earn revenue but will also keep eyes on the travellers, and people will feel safe,” he says.
Talks are still on about the Chennai Metro Rail taking over this first elevated railway line spread across 19.34 km in the city, Cherubal adds that a lot needs to be done soon.
“Once they construct the line from St Thomas Mount to Velachery, it will make a huge difference in people’s lives. I hope they do it soon and make transportation easy and affordable,” he says.