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.

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.

This is the pathway that leads to the rear of the canteen seen in photo above.
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.

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.

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.



Chennai’s MTC starves S30 with solo weekend service

When they were introduced after a long delay, the ‘small buses‘ of Chennai’s Metropolitan Transport Corporation were intended to cater to congested areas that had little or no public transport connectivity – these places were at the mercy of autorickshaws that do not ply by meter. In some areas, they were meant to mop up the revenue being lost to 7-seater taxis that operate illegally, often overloaded to about 12 or even 14 passengers.

S30, operating from Mahalingapuram Ayyappan Temple to Ashok Nagar [Metro Station] via Kodambakkam, Rangarajapuram, West Mambalam and Ashok Nagar is one such small bus route.

On a Saturday evening, there are too few people in this S30 service to Mahalingapuram, in West Mambalam. Photo: G. Ananthakrishnan (CC)

It may sound incredible, but MTC has reduced the number of buses on S30 on Saturdays and Sundays to just one. Yes, one bus.

On other days, there are 2 buses on the route, which means a frequency of approximately 30 minutes. Even on weekdays, if a bus breaks down, the waiting time may be doubled.

On July 2, I waited for this bus at the Ashok Nagar Metro Station for 20 minutes at 7.30 p.m. The conductor later said the route fetched poor returns, sometimes just Rs.350 per shift.

Not a smart move by Chennai MTC
The S30 waiting at Liberty Bus stop on a trip towards Ashok Pillar. Note the wooden board that obscures the LED route display. Photo: G. Ananthakrishnan



MTC management problem

But the problem with the poor collection and low patronage is of MTC’s own making.

The Chennai Metro Rail does not really go anywhere right now, so there are few passengers to take the small buses from Ashok Pillar or Alandur.  But there is another well-patronised train station that S30 and other buses could touch, yet do not: the Kodambakkam Suburban Railway station.

If S30 is re-routed via the Kodambakkam Railway Station rather than cover only Viswanathapuram Main Road, it will attract people who want to reach Rangarajapuram, West Mambalam and Ashok Nagar.

In the future, when Chennai Metro has a fuller service, those who want to go to Kodambakkam station or residential localities nearby can board it at Ashok Nagar. [Story on present ridership is here]

No data insight on passengers

MTC has also shown lack of data insight into the transport demand in Rangarajapuram, where bus connectivity had dwindled over the past 15 years. With better planning, S30 could have been deployed partly on Rangarajapuram Main Road, to create better access (as route S35 does in Jones Road, West Saidapet).

Historically, route 11 D to Parrys/Broadway that used to pass through Rangarajapuram, specifically Rangarajapuram Main Road, has been withdrawn, and refashioned as 11G which does not touch the area – it uses Brindavan Street instead, from Arya Gowda Road.

S30 could have provided some connectivity to the residents of Rangarajapuram area, helping them reach the Kodambakkam Suburban Railway Station in one direction, and the Ashok Pillar bus stop and Metro Station in the other.

These tweaks to the S30 route, together with an increase in the number of services operating on it, are vital to improve its viability. It would be a shame if the route was completely done away with because MTC has not made a proper demand study, and the choice has been imposed without consulting the public.

The pity is that Chennai MTC does not provide real time information on its services to passengers. If a passenger knew the time of arrival of a small bus, or its location, it would be easier to plan the journey.

MTC is the perfect example of India’s transport service providers not keeping pace with technological developments, and the capabilities of smartphones to deliver travel information, even in a major city like Chennai.


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

Chennai Metro hires World Bank body IFC as advisor

The garbage strewn approach to the Triplicane station of MRTS in Chennai

The Chennai Metro has hired a World Bank member, IFC, to act as Lead Transaction Advisor for the Chennai Metroi Rail project.

According to a media release, the aim is to provide “efficient and affordable” services through the Metro. Before pointing out the complete disconnect between the Chennai transport bureaucracy and public needs, here is the rest of the announcement.

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is to help Chennai Metro Rail Limited establish operations of two metro corridors. IFC was, the release said, engaged by Chennai Metro, a public sector unit, to be Lead Transaction Advisor for the project. It will help structure operations and manage arrangements of public-private partnerships with an experienced private operator. IFC also will work closely with experts from the World Bank Group to structure the project, marketing it to reputed operators, and help Chennai Metro organize a competitive selection process for the operator.

The Managing Director of the Chennai Metro Rail Limited, K. Rajaraman has made the following observation about the obvious – “Successful implementation of the Chennai Metro Rail project will help address the city’s traffic problems and reduce vehicular pollution.” “Shorter travel times and comfortable transportation will directly impact economic productivity and improve living standards.” (We must thank Mr. Rajaraman for indirectly acknowledging the poor standards that are available today). He also noted that IFC’s global experience with mass-transportation projects will support expertise in India and help structure sustainable operations and project management.

“The Chennai Metro project aligns with IFC’s strategic focus on promoting inclusive growth by providing access for all to a developed mass-transportation system as well as helping reduce greenhouse-gas emissions,” said Laurence Carter, IFC Director for Infrastructure Advisory. “Moreover, by showcasing the private sector’s role, the project could be a model for developing similar infrastructure projects in India.”

It is obvious from the above statements that the major issue here is the inclusion of the private sector, and therefore profit payouts. We will have to wait to see what impact such policies have on objective first stated above, which is efficiency and affordability.

When we look at the present, there is little to hope for. The same transport bureaucracy in Chennai which is supposed to supervise existing arrangements has left the MRTS system in a shambles. As newspapers occasionally report, several MRTS stations are not yet complete (possibly waiting for ‘inclusive development’), and all are dirty, forbidding and decrepit. There is no information system for passengers worth mentioning. Finally, the service levels are abysmal, with one train every 20 minutes for several hours a day, and one in 30 minutes in the afternoon. Is this the World Bank’s idea of efficient transport? The trains are sometimes horribly crowded, have poor lighting and are an invitation to crime.

Mr. Rajaraman also needs to explain whether his 2.5 billion dollar Metro will also offer such ridiculous service levels. Also, what has happened to the reported move of the Chennai Metro to take over the MRTS?

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