CHENNAI: The alarm blared in the background, and the gates were closed. Several motorists shut down their engines, since it would take several minutes for the train to pass by. Many pedestrians, among them college students, crossed the tracks. Just meters away, however, is the unfinished subway, slated to remove the level-crossing (LC 27) near Chromepet railway station. The subway, for which work started almost a decade back, is testimony to how public infrastructure, funded by tax-payers’ money, goes waste.
While the Railways department has completed it’s part, the Highways department is yet to commence work, which is estimated to cost more than `3 crore. The site now presents a rather bad picture, with tonnes of garbage being dumped there.
The reason for this situation is the stand-off between local residents and Highways department over design of the subway. While the former want the subway to permit movement of light motor vehicles, the department has made it clear that only a pedestrian subway is feasible.
“The subway will be a convenient route for motorists to reach Radha Nagar and other nearby residential areas from Grand Southern Trunk Road, or vice-versa. If not, we’ll be forced to take a long detour,” Jacob, an auto-driver, said.
But a highways official told Express that there was not enough approach length for a light motor vehicle subway. “The railways has indicated they will not provide any land, citing their own future needs. Hence, only a pedestrian subway is possible,” he said.
The locals, on the other hand, are not willing to buy the argument. They cite a Government Order issued in 2012, obtained through an RTI filed by V Santhanam, a local activist, which stated that the State government initially agreed to a pedestrian-cum-light motor vehicle subway at LC 27.
“There are other subways, including one near Pallavaram, which have come up despite facing similar constraints. The larger needs of the community can be catered to only if motor vehicles are permitted in this subway,” VS Mathivanan, a trader said.
The value of a subway is beyond question, as Railway Protection Force (RPF) officials say this stretch is prone to train runover accidents. Also, the traffic situation gets worse, especially in the evenings, with a long queue of vehicles waiting on both sides until the train passes.
When quizzed if the impasse would end, the official replied in the affirmative. While the subway at LC 27 will only be for pedestrians, he said, “A light motor vehicle subway at a nearby LC (opposite Vaishnav College) has been sanctioned. We’ll shortly take up work on both subways simultaneously.”