CHENNAI: Could the Bus Rapid Transit System, which has failed in Delhi, be a success in Chennai? “Yes,” emphasises Jaya Bharathi Bathmaraj of Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).
Hitting out at the Delhi model, Bharathi says that it was implemented in a flawed manner. She also dismisses the allegations that Chennai is not prepared for BRTS or that there is not enough road width to implement BRTS.
Interestingly, BRTS was mooted by the government initially and a feasibility study was also completed. Beyond it, the project never saw the light of the day. ITDP is playing a key role in the implementation in the project.
Talk about delays and Bharathi brushes it aside and says that a detailed project report is under preparation. But for the last four years, the project is more on paper than on the road.
Tamil Nadu Infrastructure Development Board has sanctioned Rs 5 crore to the transport department to prepare the detailed project report for five corridors — Chennai Airport to Tambaram, with possible extension up to Mahindra City (GST Road); Thoraipakkam to Chrompet (Pallikaranai 100 Feet Road); and three corridors from Koyambedu to Ambattur, Poonamallee and Madhavaram.
But Bharathi says it is for the government to decide when the project is implemented. She defends BRTS tooth and nail — It is very economical when compared to Metro and Light Rail Transit, she insists.
If you have Rs 1,500 crore for a mass transit project, you can only build 3.8 km of underground stretch or 7.5 km of elevated stretch for Chennai Metro. Or a 10 km stretch of monorail track. But with the same amount, you can build 74 km of bus rapid transit system, she says.
Interestingly, the argument for BRTS is that dedicated lanes can take in 12,000 passengers per hour per direction. She says that the Delhi BRTS failed as they did not have secure and enclosed bus stations. “The stations were not on the central median as is the case for Ahmedabad BRTS. The whole design was flawed,” Bharathi points out.
BRTS is backed by M G Deivasahayam, mananaging Trustee of the Chennai-based Citizens Alliance for Sustainable Living (SUSTAIN). He says if BRTS is properly implemented, it could be a success. “But before preparing a detailed project report, they should have a stakeholder meeting,” he says.
He also laments that existing mass rapid transit systems are not being optimised. Currently, MRTS is running only 20% of its capacity. “They have to optimise and augment it before thinking of new transit systems,” says Deivasahayam.
However, the BRTS is unlikely to be implemented in the next six months. And once the elections gets over, one could hope for yet another mass rapid transit system for Chennai.