In Chennai, no railway for old men (or women)

Two pictures from today’s commute to show why the Chennai suburban railway system is a dinosaur in the age of modern, fast-paced public transport. The photos were taken at Fort station, which is a key transit station for the Beach-Tambaram and Beach-Velachery MRTS lines.

The staircase is so high, that most people take the risk of crossing tracks. On average, two or three people die everyday in train accidents on Chennai rail lines.

The picture shows that ageing citizens, many of them nursing painful knees and creeping osteoarthritis, as well women with similar problems, are ready to violate the rules and cross the tracks, at great risk. The irony is that most shopping malls in Chennai now have escalators that run continuously, reliable lifts, and charge nothing for entry. That’s the neoliberal approach to transport!

Okay, here’s another picture that also tells the story quite strongly.

This man climbed the steep staircase suffering great pain, virtually pulling himself up each step, clutching the banister. Here he makes his way down. Fort Station, Chennai.

Are we so poor that our tax revenues do not permit modernisation of suburban railway systems? The Southern Railway has been doing great service but its Chennai Division has performed badly on the suburban section and MRTS for years now. Incomplete stations, unsafe, cramped parking slots, rudimentary ticketing infrastructure, bad lighting and lack of good information systems bedevil the suburban railway – MRTS network of Tamil Nadu’s capital. Read this interesting piece on “The Crisis of Public Transport in India” by John Pucher, Nisha Korattyswaroopam and Neenu Ittyerah (who, incidentally, served as CPRO of Southern Railway, Chennai, well after the piece was published by the Journal of Public Transportation in 2004.)

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