Sponsored time-tables in the style of plastic banners have made their appearance on the Beach – Tambaram lines. Providing a contrast, timetables with a different style and colour scheme have been displayed on the Beach – Velachery line.
The time-table style is a pointer to the poor planning done by the Southern Railway, whose Chennai Division handles the suburban trains.
Update: The schedule for MRTS has been changed in 2008. These sponsored boards have therefore disappeared, and small boards have been put up, representing a further step backward. The lates timetable for 2008 can be downloaded here as pdf.
There is no uniformity in the presentation of train details in the new time-tables. This is fundamentally different from international metro train information systems, which adopt a uniform style to create familiarity and quick readibility for commuters.
Moreover, for some strange reason, the displays sponsored by a private company on the Beach – Tambaram line have been divided into separate Monday – Saturday and Sunday timetables. The poor design of these at first glance confuses the commuter, on what service it represents. Also, it does not state in Tamil, that the display is for Mon – Sat or Sun. Thus, if you do not know English, you may have difficulty interpreting the time-tables.
In the case of the MRTS time-tables, there is a different sort of confusion. There are three colours adopted. Dark blue, Green and Red. The dark blue is for weekday service only; the green for weekdays and Sundays; the red is for Sunday only.
What we need to understand, apparently, is that on Sundays, the services marked in red alone operate. those in dark blue are available on weekdays only, and the green on Sundays too.
It could have been a much simpler style of marking a separate Sunday-only time-table on the model adopted at Chennai Fort MRTS station.
Sadly, the suburban train stations including the MRTS are in a terrible state of disrepair making their antiquated and creaky state even worse. Look beyond the platforms and the most modern cars with all comforts are on the road. The MTC has a few showpiece buses of different levels of sophistication, ranging from the Erode-built articulated carriages (no one knows if they have been tested for aerodynamics) to those with the classic bus design from Volvo.
When will we see modern coaches and information systems, besides better designed and maintained stations from the Railways? Why is our Minister of State for Railways, Mr. Velu happy to ship modern coaches only to Mumbai from ICF. He should be asking that similar coaches be run in Chennai, starting with the MRTS. That would attract more people to take to trains, and give a boost to issues concerning pedestrians and straphangers.