MRTS service changes a blow to commuters

If ever proof was needed that Chennai’s transport bureaucracy is out of sync with reality, it is provided by the changes effected on April 18 to the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) operating between Beach and Velachery.

The timetable for 2008 is here.

Displaying a cussed and anti-commuter attitude, the Railway has severely slashed services for most parts of the day, in order to augment the number of services during two hours in the morning and evening. The MRTS, in the imagination of these bureaucrats, is only meant as a peak-hour service, not one that can decongest at least part of the city and provide a good, viable mobility option to its citizens.

Obviously, the Southern Railway and the Tamil Nadu Government have no clue about transport demand management and continue with their penny-wise, pound-foolish methods. The two service providers also think nothing about violating the UPA Government’s National Urban Transport Policy, and National Urban Renewal Mission while making repeated demands for funds from the Centre to upgrade city infrastructure and transport services.

We are shocked to find that during three hours of the day, beginning at 1 p.m. there will be only one service to Velacheri from Beach every 30 minutes; during three more hours divided in the morning and evening, there will be one service every 20 minutes. By any international standard, this is a joke for a city of 6 million people. Most international urban commuter trains and trams operate with two to five minute frequences. Clearly, the Divisional Railway Manager of Southern Railway and the transport bureaucracy in Fort St. George do not have any plans to encourage people to shift to the MRTS from their personal vehicles — if they did, it would have led to augmented services throughout the day, rather than a reduction.

We demand that the Government of India call upon the Southern Railway and the Government of Tamil Nadu to explain why Central assistance should be extended to various projects, when their objectives are not fulfilled by them.

It is inconceivable that the DMK government is capable of running a metro railway or a bus rapid transit (BRT) system when it is working against commuter interests even with what can be called plain-old railway systems and bus routes. The sad conclusion is that the state government finds something unusually attractive in the Rs. 9,300-plus crore proposal for the metro railway, something that it does not in the MRTS and other suburban railways of the city.

Protest this injustice to commuters. Send email to the Tamil Nadu Transport Secretary and the Secretary, Union Urban Development Ministry.


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