The Railway Ministry has offered some hope to commuters by promising a time-bound extension of the MRTS railway upto St. Thomas Mount in Southern Chennai. The expenditure involved, of course appears to be staggering, at half of the entire amount of Rs.990 odd crores spent so far on the existing MRTS, Phases I and II. Some of the funds needed can be realised through joint development of property along the alignment to Mount, as is the international practice. If private real estate is going to benefit out of the rail line, it can be coaxed into contributing some of its profits into the new project that is helping the property sector.
The challenge before the Ministry and the Tamil Nadu Government, which is the major partner in the venture, to deliver the extension by the promised deadline of 2010.
If it does achieve that target, there will be a circular railway of sorts, covering St.Thomas Mount on the Tambaram – Beach line upto Beach, and the MRTS from Beach to St. Thomas Mount. What the Chennai metropolitan planning authorities need to do is to put in high capacity bus systems now on the transverse line from Light House MRTS station point at Kamarajar Salai to Poonamallee High Road covering the Nungambakkam railway station.
To say that a major service augmentation is needed in terms of train frequency would be an understatement. Once the line extension to Mount has been completed, the service on both Beach – Tambaram and MRTS would have to be doubled, and in time increased even more. A train every 4 minutes would be required to meet the higher travel demand and all rail cars should be modern. At present, even the 12 car rakes on the Beach – Tambaram line go full most of the time, and the six car rakes on MRTS are also crowded.
As a beginning, the Southern Railway needs to increase the number of cars in the MRTS rakes to 12 for all business hours and nine at other times immediately.
The 2008 timetable for MRTS is here.