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Crowd woes in public transportation grind Chennai’s daily commuters down

Some Chennai residents now prefer the metro, which is not as crowded as the local trains or buses – given its high ticket prices.

tamil nadu Updated: Dec 27, 2017 10:07 IST
Anand Kumar
Anand Kumar
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Chennai metro,Chennai traffic,Chennai commuters
Commuters hang about the doors of crowded electric trains or buses every day to make it to their destination.

S Radhakrishnan, 45, works in a pharmaceutical company in Manali in north Chennai. To get to his workplace, he travels for about 45 minutes every day from his home in south Chennai’s Pallavaram to the Chennai Beach station, with a changeover at Guindy station. At Chennai Beach Station, a bus organised by his office picks him up.

Hindustan Times travelled with Radhakrishnan on a cloudy morning on the 8.05am local train. “It is only if I take this particular train can I catch the fast train from Guindy to Chennai Beach station,” he explains when queried about his hurry to get into the train. Once in the train, Radhakrishnan remains on edge. He looks out constantly, worried that the ‘fast train’ he needs to catch will overtake the ‘slow train’ that he is in – that would be a disaster because he would miss the 9am bus his office provides from Chennai Beach railway station.

This has been Radhakrishnan’s daily routine over the past decade. The frequency of trains has increased from one every 30 minutes to one in 10 minutes. “But there has also been a rise in (number of) passengers. You saw how much jostling and shoving there is to get in,” he smiles.

At Guindy, Radhakrishnan makes a dash to the fast train, making it just in the nick of time.

In the fast train, we encounter a panting R Balaji, 32, an employee in a private firm, who travels every day from St Thomas Mount to Kodambakkam. “I get a seat in this train only about twice a month,” he laughs.

“The bigger problem is during the monsoons, when there is water stagnation on the tracks, the train stops anywhere the driver feels like stopping! We are forced to jump out of the train and over walls and fences to get to the main roads,” he says.

This year, Chennai’s suburban railways turned 86. Trains ply along 900 kilometres of tracks from Chennai to the suburbs serving over a million passengers every day. From 3.55am to 12.54am the next day, over 500 services ply in Chennai and to suburbs such as Tiruvallur, Tambaram, Gummidipoondi and Velachery.

In numbers
A look at the pillars of the Chennai’s public transport

The other pillar of Chennai’s transport system is its public bus network, run by the Metropolitan Transport Corporation that operates 3,688 buses and serves 4.8 million commuters.

Balaji boards 17D, a Deluxe bus, at Egmore. This bus plies from Parry’s Corner in north Chennai to KK Nagar in south Chennai.

K Ramachandran, 31, hangs off the footboard of the bus rather dangerously as the HT reporter clings on precariously next to him. Ramachandran is headed to Valluvar Kottam. “In Chennai, between 8am and 10am, you can never find a single bus which is not crowded. The only people who manage to get seats are those who jump in at the starting point half an hour before the bus leaves.

“But you get used to it. The main problem is that my clothes get crumpled and sweaty by the time I reach office,” says the insurance employee.

Some Chennai residents now prefer the metro, which is not as crowded as the local trains or buses – given its high ticket prices. The minimum price of a ticket is Rs 40, the most expensive of all metro rail networks in the country. Of the two proposed phases, only two corridors have been opened to the public. This reporter took the Metro from Ashok Nagar station to Nehru Park – a distance of 13.72km.

D Bhanupriya, 34, a staffer at a private firm, said she took the metro from Alandur to Kilpauk every day and she was able to plan her travel because the trains were on time.

“As a woman commuter, this is also the safest transport for me. There are policewomen present, screening of bags takes place and they do not allow drunken passengers inside the train,” she says.

But from Kilpauk station, Bhanupriya has to travel by bus for another 30 minutes to reach her workplace.

“I am unable to find ladies’ special buses nowadays,” she says. But the MTC says 250 ladies’ special services ply every day.

In the evenings, Bhanupriya prefers to take an app-based taxi. “The shared cabs are cheaper but they take us all over the place and we reach our destination late. Two weeks back, it was raining heavily. I had booked an Ola cab and it showed me a rate of Rs 170 from my office to the Metro station. But by the time I got there, due to traffic and delays, I was charged Rs 770!”

First Published: Dec 27, 2017 08:11 IST