If Medellin can provide escalators, why can’t Chennai?

The Hindu had a picture this morning of escalators being installed in a less-than-prosperous neighbourhood in Medellin, Colombia to help people living uphill move about without torturing their knees and ankles. This video provides an even better feel of the new facility.

What crosses one’s mind immediately is the fate of pedestrians in Chennai, who have some of the most difficult walking paths anywhere. Regular commuter on the city’s suburban rail system and the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) find the going even tougher. To switch from the Tambaram-Beach suburban line to the Beach – Velachery MRTS, the available transit stations are Fort, and Beach. You must use a staircase of the kind seen in the picture below.

But at both places, passengers must climb steep staircases. Passengers who are 40-plus find it particularly difficult, especially women who have begun to develop osteoarthritis symptoms. Although Tamil Nadu has been represented on the Union Cabinet by several Ministers of State for Railways, they have done nothing. Our much-travelled Home Minister  P.Chidambaram, who must have seen the Washington DC Metro many times during his visits obviously finds these issues uninteresting.

The Hard Climb
An old woman makes her way slowly up the transit staircase at Fort Station in Chennai, India

See the video below to understand what a climb involves, even for a person with not-so-severe disability.

The pantheon of Dravidian political parties considers walking on the road a clear sign of personal failure – they insist on riding in nothing less than an SUV, and will walk only in their own large houses or party headquarters. Their disinterest in pedestrian facilities is therefore notorious. Thus, they put up steep staircases in Murasoli Maran’s time on Haddows Road and Nungambakkam High Road, which nobody used. A lift was then installed at the latter location, working only part of the day.

Will the example of Medellin make them feel a little bit inferior, and do something for Chennai?


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