Chennai Metro fares may be subsidising station car parking

Who pays for the construction of the parking lot at Chennai Central station that the Times of India says will have seven levels to keep 4,000 cars (story here) ? The other development of the Chennai Central tunnelling work reaching a milestone with the last of the TBM points forging through on Friday is reported here by ToI and here by New Indian Express.

chennai_metro_rail_at_koyambedu
A Chennai Metro train at Koyambedu station. Photo: KARTY JazZ, Creative Commons

In the absence of any differentiation in the costing of the Metro construction between core facilities and such add-ons that have no universal value, we must assume that the cost is distributed across the entire system – which means, it is loaded into the fare that everyone pays.

If this is not the case, Chennai Metro Rail Limited is duty-bound to explain how it is arriving at parking fees, in order to segregate the expenditure and cost recovery.
Since Japan, whose investors have funded the Metro, is also deeply interested in India’s car sector, having a thriving business in the country with its Toyotas, Suzukis, Hondas and so on, it is likely that there is a convergence of interest between the local car lobby and the decision.

Why criticise commuters?

Many people criticise bus, rail commuters for demanding better services at affordable fares, which are not anyway available. There is no effort at bringing link buses to the Metro stations. Even pedestrian access to the Metro stations in Vadapalani, Koyambedu, Alandur are crudely designed, and hence dysfunctional.

Secondly, while we welcome mass mobility systems, Chennai Metro Rail maintains an aloofness with users characteristic of all public services in India. It does not think public transport is a partnership, rather a top down offering to helpless users. Thus, its proposed Chennai Metro app (for Android) may not have real time information on trains, just static maps, an outdated model. The report on the app in The Hindu is here.

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MTC deluxe 11H bus with a breaking floorboard

I made this video today about a deluxe MTC bus on route 11H towards Broadway showing how the city’s main transport system is coming apart at the seams.

Times of India reports on RTI order to MTC

The Times of India today reports on the order of the Tamil Nadu Information Commission to Chennai Metropolitan Transport Corporation, directing it to provide a copy of its Detailed Project Report for bus service to us.
Although the one week deadline set by the Commission has expired and MTC is expected to report compliance, it has chosen to disregard the order.
This will naturally entail legal consequences.

Chennai Transport Regulatory Authority: MTC has not attended a single meeting

It is now confirmed that the Metropolitan Transport Corporation of Chennai, the monopoly bus operator, has not attended a single meeting of the Transport Regularity Authority reported to have been set up by the Karunanidhi government under the Union Government’s mandatory requirements for financial assistance.

In the context of this discussion, the TRA referred to is a Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority. The question posed to MTC under the RTI was, “Has MTC attended any meeting of a newly formed Transport Regulatory Authority in Chennai during 2008-10? If yes, what was the decision taken on integrating rail and bus service in Chennai, as required under Ministry of Urban Development’s Total Mobility Plan covering JNNURM assistance?”

“MTC has not attended in the meeting of a newly formed Transport Regularity Authority in Chennai during 2008-2010” says a response from the Appellate Authority of the Corporation, which has been availing assistance under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Mission. The JNNURM and the National Urban Transport Policy require that States set up UMTAs for cities, in order to qualify for funding.

This assertion makes it clear that the DMK and unwittingly, its partner, the Congress, have been duping the people of Chennai about transport reform.

Under the circumstances, it means little whether there is one MTC or two, as today’s news reports announce.

The attitude of the DMK Government to the TRA also makes the future of the Chennai Metro Rail very doubtful. After all, what can a party with so little commitment to commuters provide with a Metro? It will be another system run as per the whims and fancies of the party brass, not as a professional transit system. Integration of buses and trains will remain a wish.

If this situation is to be averted, the Japanese funding agency for the Rs.14,000 crore-plus Metro project should stipulate the operational norms for the Chennai Metro Rail, and monitor the progress every step of the way. There should also be transparency on what has been done so far, using the CMRL website.

In answer to several questions on its future plans for Chennai bus transport, the monopoly bus corporation MTC has refused to provide answers, citing section 8 (1) (d) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

We will pursue that part of the petition in the State Information Commission.

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