The Hindu has been carrying a series of articles on the MRTS in Chennai. It started with a recent special focus in its city pulse column, which can be read here and here. The Seamy Side of MRTS Stations has been published today.
As a straphanger for some months now, I have been studying the system and found that its passenger information facility is so completely out of sync.
Take the case of Chintadripet station, which I use everyday. When you alight from the train from Beach end, the main sign next to the staircase says, “No Exit.” That seems fair enough, but there is no other sign that points to an exit. What is more, look a few inches below, and there is another that says, in faded blue, “Escalator.”
If that confusing set of signs were not enough (there is no escalator going downwards from that point, incidentally) there is another sign a few feet away with a red pointer arrow that says, “Bus Terminus.” Remember that these escalator and bus terminus signs point in the same direction that the main sign said, No Exit.
When you violate the No Exit sign and go down one level, to the mezzanine floor, there is another contradictory sign that tells you that you are indeed on the right track!
That says, “Exit” and helpfully provides an arrow in the same direction that you were advised not to go earlier.
These signs are just a sample of the confused state of our transport bureaucracy, which has no concept of information or service. It exists, seemingly, because the colonial administrators gave us a railway which we are now trying to build incrementally upon. Our only standardised factor is that there is a single gauge now, at 1.676 metres.
The rest of our railway operations, which miraculously continue to transport millions of people everyday, is woefully backward. We may be writing software for the world, but we use little of it except for ticketing for long distance trains.
For a contrast, I am publishing a picture of Eindhoven railway station in the Netherlands, which I visited recently.
The picture shows a set of services that are essential for ease of travel and efficiency, and which our railways can take a leaf out of. The basics are: working clocks next to an electronic display giving the train information, a set of ticketing machines (I will be perfectly happy with manned, easily accessible counters here), cash machines to dispense change, a centrally located manual information kiosk, apart from electronic touchscreen ones.