2.5 billion dollars for a Chennai metro, but no money for a clock?

The DMK Government talks about the planned Japan-aided Metro for Chennai, which costs an astronomical 2.5 billion dollars (Rs.14,400 crore) as its upcoming achievement. But the same government, which is a partner with the Union Ministry of Railways in running the Mass Rapid Transit System between Chennai Beach and Velachery does not spend anything to help passengers. It does not even divert its buses into the MRTS stations or allow feeder systems to operate from there.

If you want one piece of evidence that is symbolic of how consistent the Tamil Nadu government is in its neglect of the MRTS, you can find it on the platform in Fort Station. This run-down, decrepit MRTS platform has a clock which remains frozen in time for the past several years.

Remember that this government also stakes claim to funding under the JNNURM to upgrade facilities in Chennai. Obviously, it will use the money whimsically, and there is no oversight from the Ministry of Urban Development.

The clock on the MRTS platform at Fort Station - frozen in time for many years. But Chennai is preparing to spend 2.5 billion dollars on a new metro.

But the clock is merely symbolic. It is a small example of the attitude of the rulers towards meeting the basic question of mobility. There are several ways in which the Tamil Nadu government is contributing, through acts of omission and commission to deny people easy access to trains, buses and low-cost feeders. We have already noted that for several years, there has been no real expansion of bus services. Moreover, the quality of travel is going down with each passing year.

The DMK government made a show of forming a Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority for Chennai, and passed the Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Act, 2010 but did nothing to use the new forum to introduce reforms. Chief among the pending reforms is integration.

What we need is a common ticket, and passes valid on all buses and other public modes of travel. It is mandated by Central government policy now, but obviously, such things do not matter to the DMK or its government in Tamil Nadu.

Clause 10 (5) of the Act clearly says the CUMTA will “regulate measures for integration of all public mass passenger transport modes by means of various measures including routing and scheduling, operating feeder services and combined or common ticketing to facilitate seamless commuting options to the public.”

As it gets ready to go to the people for their mandate again, we have to ask the Karunanidhi government to demonstrate that it acted fairly in the interests of the commuter. What did it to do to relieve the pressure of higher fuel prices, need for travel created by rising economic growth, and the very question of ensuring equity for the average citizen.

Do you deserve our confidence again?

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