How to locate Chennai Airport Metro station, Tirusulam suburban rail station

India does a poor job of providing signage, and nowhere is it more evident than at the Chennai Airport.

So here are some pointers to finding the Chennai Metro station and Tirusulam suburban train station from the arrivals area. There are no MTC airport buses in operation.

When you are leaving the International Arrivals area, you pass through a small canopy from which you can see the car parking area ahead, and the Chennai Metro station on your left. The difficulty is in locating the elevator that will take you and your baggage to the concourse level of the Metro.

airport1
The entrance to the Chennai Airport Metro at the ground level is actually through this eatery.  Photos : G. Ananthakrishnan (Creative Commons)

Picture above shows the station entry, flanked by two entrances to a big AAI Canteen, which is open to both Airport Authority staff, and to the public. Tip: It offers cheaper, more varied food than the kiosks inside and outside the airport.

Go past the canteen entrance to the left, and you will see the car parking area of the Metro ahead (pictures below). Here, you notice a sign pointing to the elevator. Walk in, and the elevator is at the left. Proceed to the concourse, and good luck.

airport2
This is the pathway that leads to the rear of the canteen seen in photo above.
airport3
Here you see the entrance to the parking area, and the almost hidden elevator at left, inside

Finding the Tirusulam station is much more difficult. You must walk beyond the Metro point described above, on to the left, and look for the ticket booths for car entry. Walk past the booths and ahead, until you spot the entrance to the Tirusulam Pedestrian Subway (photo below). This is the entry you want to take, to reach the suburban train station. The Grand Southern Trunk road is at right.

airport4
This is the entrance to both the Tirusulam pedestrian subway, that helps you cross to the East, across GST Road, and also reach the suburban train station of Indian Railways

Other than at the subway entrance, there are no boards pointing to either the subway or suburban train station.

So why take the trouble to walk to the suburban train? It costs five Indian rupees for a distance of about 10 km, while the Chennai Metro costs Rs. 40! But bear in mind, the Tirusulam station area can be rough, since it is not well illuminated. Exercise caution depending upon the time of your travel. Nights can be tricky, since there is no significant police presence.

airport5
As with many things Indian, the elevator in the subway does not work. So be prepared to haul your luggage to the station crossing some flights of stairs. There is one ramp leading to the train platform beyond the booking office, though.

Here’s a piece in The Hindu on how quickly you can get to the airport by the different travel choices currently available in Chennai.

 

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Chennai Metro to link DMS and Central to airport by March 2018

By G. Ananthakrishnan

Chennai Metro Rail will connect two more sections with the airport in Tirusulam-Meenambakkam by March 2018: DMS on Anna Road and Chennai Central, the city’s most important rail terminal.

With that linkage, the rail system effectively will connect suburban trains operating upto Arakkonam in the West and Gummidipoondi in the northwest, from Central. It already links the city’s central bus station, CMBT, with the airport by rail.

The timeline for the new connections was highlighted by a Chennai Metro Rail Limited executive recently to a group of visitors including this writer.

cmrl-schematic

Connecting the premier rail head in the city, and Chennai Egmore, the secondary rail terminal and CMBT will provide a commercially viable section to Chennai Metro, while it waits to complete its delayed project on arterial Anna Road and the line to North Chennai. About 150 metres of tunneling between Gemini (US Consulate point) to AG-DMS (see map) is yet to be completed, holding up early operation of the entire line.

Some key points on the current operations of Chennai Metro:

  • Green Line from Nehru Park to Airport: It provides a connection from Nehru Park on  EVR Periyar High Road (Poonamallee High Road) to the Airport (20.6 km), covering Kilpauk, Pachaiyappa’s College, Shenoy Nagar, Anna Nagar East, Anna Nagar Tower, Tirumangalam, Koyambedu CMBT (bus terminal), Arumbakkam, Vadapalani, Ashok Nagar, Eekathuthangal, Alandur, Nanganallur Road, Meenambakkam Metro. The map for the line is here. Normal fare given by Chennai Metro website for the entire stretch is Rs.60. Cards get some discounts. See this page for details.
  • At the moment, only smart cards are sold for travel on the underground section, between Nehru Park and Airport. It costs Rs.10 plus the fare, so you can use it again or keep a ten-rupee souvenir if you just passing through. (It would be environmentally friendly to give the cards a five year validity, so it is not added to the waste pile).
  • Small bus link: While we wait for the connection to Central to be completed, there is a small bus on route S96 operating between Central and Nehru Park, via Egmore. It is not designed to carry baggage, so you have to think twice whether you want to take an Uber or Ola or other mode of transport up to Nehru Park, to board the train to the airport. This is a typical third world bus with narrow entrance and exit, friendly neither to people nor meant to transport passengers transferring between trains and planes. There is an Ola counter at Nehru Park, if you wish to use that in the reverse direction to Central. Another May I Help You counter for MTC route S96 is also there, but it seemed to be unmanned last week at 11 a.m.
  • Integrated tickets: Chennai Metro says it is planning to have integrated tickets between its services and those of MTC, starting with the Small Bus. Details are sketchy, and it is likely to  work using the hand-held ticket terminals used by MTC conductors.
  • Security is a big priority at Chennai Metro and all baggage is scanned, airport-style, and passengers are frisked.
  • Real Time Passenger Info: Chennai Metro also says it has successfully trialled a real time passenger information system, although there is no timeline for its availability on the CMRL Totems that are found outside the stations, or on the official app of the Metro system.
  • Step-free access: Look out for lifts at the Metro stations, since escalators don’t exist to reach the underground concourses and platforms. I have found it difficult to navigate to the lifts at the airport.

Catch a glimpse of the recently opened underground system of Chennai Metro and the work in progress, in this slideshow.

 

Chennai’s popular ‘share autos’ operating illegally: Transport Dept to RTI query

Share autos, or 7-seater mini vans operating in the hundreds in Chennai are illegal, and cannot pick up and drop passengers at random, the Tamil Nadu Transport Department said in reply to an RTI query that I filed in March, 2017. The RTI application was filed to the Secretary, Transport, Tamil Nadu, who forwarded it to the Transport Commissioner, who in turn sent it to RTOs.

The response of the department exposes the lack of a regulated scheme for shared transport in Tamil Nadu, although such services have been operational for a few years now and are highly popular with commuters, especially women. Even the Chennai Metro Rail acknowledges the popularity of these services as feeders from some of its stations. The share autos also provide night transport till almost 2 a.m., which the State government has failed to.

The monopoly bus operator in Chennai, the MTC, has responded grudgingly to the need for small-format transport and introduced a couple of hundred 24 seater mini-buses (besides at least 12 standing passengers) which are also well-patronised. However, for apparently political reasons [not wanting to upset autorickshaw interests], the MTC has not expanded the scheme of mini-buses in a targeted fashion, connecting railway and Metro stations, residential areas and bus termini.

On the RTI query, when asked whether 7-seater or 6-seater vehicles could operate under any law in the city of Chennai and the neighbouring districts of Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram as ‘share autos’, taking passengers from the roadside for drop at random, the Regional Transport Office, Chennai (North West), Chennai 600102 said “No” in its response dated April 3.

So what action is being taken by the Transport Department to regulate the operation of such ‘share autos’ – currently seen operating from areas like Mylapore, Thiruvanmiyur, Nesappakkam, Porur, Chennai Central, T.Nagar, Anna Nagar and Mogappair?

“The Motor Vehicles Inspectors are conducting regular checks on these vehicles and booking for offences committed,” the RTI reply said.

Shared transport in Chennai
A 7-seater share auto in Chennai. Usually, these vehicles carry a minimum of 9 people, and at night, up to 13, charging between Rs.7 and Rs.30 per head for a 1 km -10 km ride.

The RTO (North West) also provided figures of how many 7-seater and 6-seater vehicles were given taxi permit for operation in the city of Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram, within its jurisdiction.

The details of the taxi permits are as follows:

Year 7 SEATER 6 SEATER
2011 12 3
2012 05 01
2013 01
2014 05
2015 03 21
2016 02

Data from Regional Transport Officer (North West), Chennai, 600102

The RTO did not respond to questions on whether the Transport Department had any rules in existence or proposed any to enable the operation of shared passenger vehicles, using commercial transport apps for smartphones and on the internet, such as Ola Share and Uberpool. “This office is only a Regional office. Hence the question not related to this office,” the reply stated.

A similar response was given to a question on whether the Transport Department was taking steps to incorporate the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways report on Guidelines for Taxi Cab Operations in Cities for urban mobility, which MoRTH had published in December 2016 and which was sent by the Union Joint Secretary for Transport, Abhay Damle to the Secretaries of Transport in the States.

Need for answers

Both Chennai Metro and MTC are members of the UITP, the international association of public transport which will hold its summit in Montreal, Canada between May 15 and 17, 2017.

Forming a proper scheme to introduce regulated shared modes of transport in Chennai, besides expanding the static bus network of the MTC are major issues before the city. Delegates from Chennai will be called upon to explain their plan to meet these objectives during and after the UITP conference.

 

 

 

3 ways the AIADMK govt lightened your wallet

busview

 

The time is approaching when we must choose a new government for Tamil Nadu. For commuters, the past five years under the AIADMK have been literally expensive in the following ways:

  1. MTC BUS SERVICE IN LOW GEAR: In spite of rapid economic growth, the AIADMK government did not improve Chennai MTC bus service. The bus fleet in real terms remained stagnant, since there was no modernisation programme to run good quality buses that meet at least national standards, if not international ones. By contrast, bus commuters had to merely watch personal car use grow by leaps and bounds with the latest products hitting the roads, some of them made in the city itself – air-conditioned, plush, equipped with great audio, video and given the benefit of government-sponsored road space. It helped that oil price fell, and in spite of increase in pollution, the State government did nothing to encourage the use of public transport. Buses: 3,500 approximately, static. Cars and other private vehicles: a few hundred registered everyday. According to this policy brief put out by TERI in 2014 Chennai has the second highest ratio of cars to population at 100 per 1,000 people after Delhi, against the national average of 13/1,000. Both the DMK and the AIADMK have focused on the growth of car production, while not making significant improvements to bus mobility – despite the fact that Ashok Leyland, located in Chennai, has been announcing several new bus products over the years, including the Janbus. The only “modernisation” of MTC took place with funds from the Union Government through the JNNURM scheme in 2009, although even there, the standards for buses were diluted citing the recession.
  2. HALF-HEARTED MINI BUS SCHEME: The small buses introduced by the AIADMK after much delay were actually the idea of the DMK, which announced the scheme in 2010. However, after the change of government in 2011, it took another two years before the concept became reality in a limited number of routes served initially by 50 buses, as this report notes. This figure went up to a total of 165 buses early in February 2016 (see this report) with the addition of 30 routes that connect some interior areas and in some cases, bus termini and train stations. It remains far from scientific, since there is no policy to connect mass transit stations through such a feeder service.
  3. DELAY IN METRO OPENING:  The AIADMK took its time to open even the small segment of the Chennai Metro between Koyambedu and Alandur, and overpriced it to the detriment of commuters – it does not attract any significant patronage as a result, does not apparently cut congestion on Inner Ring Road (Jawaharlal Nehru Road) on this stretch, and does not contribute to reduced carbon emissions, in spite of the heavy investment. The delay in the opening of the Metro robbed Chennai of clean air, says this report. It is even more frustrating for the Chennai commuter and the visitor, that the Metro work has repeatedly stalled during the five years of the AIADMK regime. Even if the factors were external, such as the Russian contractor walking out, the State did not really protest. By contrast, the government has been pushing for other works with great enthusiasm – the indifference to the Metro system (Ms. Jayalalithaa has a declared preference for mono rail), has clearly resulted in the delay and a representative of the Japanese funding agencies, Muneo Kurauchi, chairman, Japan-India Business Co-operation Committee openly criticised the Jayalalithaa government on this at the high-profile Global Investors Meet.
Not a smart move by Chennai MTC
The S30 small bus waiting at Liberty bus stop on a trip towards Ashok Pillar. 

The failure of the AIADMK government during the past five years has hit the consumer in terms of inflation in transport costs, unpredictability of travel, inefficiency, risk of accidents, pollution and loss of quality of life. There is no law that compels State governments to provide a measurable level of public transport, both in terms of quantity and assessed satisfaction of users. The gaps in the system are filled by companies like Uber, Ola (with cabs, discounted shared cab rides and autorickshaws), and unregulated share autorickshaws that do a lot of service, but illegally, by operating cramped 7-seater carriages that carry up to 15 people sometimes.

We need a revamp of Chennai public transport. I intend to write more on this in coming weeks before the elections. Five years ago, I wrote this post on who would give us better wheels, Karunanidhi or Jayalalithaa? What do you think?

 

Waiting for the Chennai Metro – Ashok Nagar station

Here is a view of the Ashok Nagar Metro station near the Ashok Pillar today. Chennai waits for the first leg – Koyambedu to Alandur – of the CMRL to be opened.

The Hindu carried a review of the stations this morning. Read that here. Some existing MTC mini buses operate from outside this station. Ironically, similar mini-bus connectivity is not available from most suburban train stations in Chennai.

There is no clarity yet about the nature of feeder transport that the CMRL will arrange from its stations. Chennai does not have a functioning transport regulator, and the AIADMK government has not moved ahead with demand-based services in the form of shared vans, mini buses and regular buses, both to extended destinations, local catchment and to connect bus and rail stations. That lacuna includes lack of advance planning for the upcoming Metro.

Ashok Nagar Chennai Metro station.
The Ashok Nagar Metro station. Note the pillar placement on the footpath that leaves a narrow space at left. Photo: G. Ananthakrishnan

Will Chennai Metro stations be pedestrian friendly?

I have had the opportunity to look at the upcoming Vadapalani station of Chennai Metro Rail. Although it is in the segment from Koyambedu to Alandur (which is ready to be inaugurated as and when the AIADMK government stirs itself) the station is far from prepared as of today.

I found some work going on in haste this afternoon.

What really troubles me is whether it is fit enough for mass pedestrian access of the kind that Chennai Metro keeps talking about. The approach from the west (from the SIMS Hospital of SRM) is weak, there is no strong footpath to take a rush of passengers, and even the one leading into and out of the station is small. To the east, the situation is not very different. Even during the construction, Chennai Metro Rail Limited has not provided good pedestrian segregation here, and when it rains, this site is surrounded by water.

Apparently, cooperation between the State Highways, CMDA, Chennai Corporation and CMRL is weak.

By contrast, there seems to be a wide gap for vehicles on either side, one leading to a big shopping mall behind. Will this be used to operate feeder transport services or for use by assorted vehicles including private ones?

Here are the photos I have from today and the past couple of days.

The slim footpath that actually leads to the staircase into the station. Is there a ramp? Photo: G. Ananthakrishnan
The slim footpath that actually leads to the staircase into the station. Is there a ramp? Photo: G. Ananthakrishnan
Vadapalani Metro station entrance April 19, 2015
The actual entrance to the station, behind which there is a hall, and ticketing area. Photo: G. Ananthakrishnan
Chennai Metro Vadapalani station April 19, 2015
The alignment of the Chennai Metro Vadapalani station on the elevated track, between Koyambedu and Alandur segment. Photo: G. Ananthakrishnan

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