CHENNAI: A railway passenger association member from Minjur in North Chennai, who was invited for a discussion with a Railway Board member at Chennai Central on Wednesday, arrived at the venue an hour late. Reason: the suburban train he commuted by was, as usual, late.
“This is a problem that has been continuing for many years,” says K Subramani, a resident of Minjur and a local activist. “Every train on the Chennai-Gumidipoondi section is at least 45 minutes late. Moreover, the frequency is also very less, despite a large number of people depending on the trains to reach Chennai,” he points out.
The delay is an issue ,which has also led to tensions for passenger-facing railway officials like station masters and managers, who have to face the wrath of irate commuters, who have in the past, protested against the delays. “For many, these trains are their lifeline as they don’t have any other mode of transport. Last year, one such protest had resulted in a Railway Police official being assaulted by angry passengers. It’s a very volatile issue and needs attention,” says a railway official, on condition of anonymity.
Goods trains, which frequent the route to cater to the vast number of industries in the area, are regularly given priority as compared to EMU trains, which further delays them, Subramani said. “The passengers have also petitioned to have a stoppage for long-distance trains at Gummidipoondi, but it has not yet materialised,” he says.
A number of representations have been given to the Railway Board, local railway officials as well as local MLAs and MPs, say railway activists, but nothing has changed on the ground. “The work for two additional lines on the Ennore-Beach route is moving at a snail’s pace. If executed quickly, it will decongest the area and eliminate the suburban train delays. But as of now, North Chennai passengers have to suffer in slow trains many more years,” says former member of Zonal Rail Users Consultative Committee S Mohanram. “Even in today’s meeting, we have highlighted the issue in front of a railway board member. The officials say work is in progress, but I feel it needs special attention,” Mohanram said.