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 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.

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.

MTC overloads buses and penalises passengers

Chennai’s Metropolitan Transport Corporation, the monopoly bus operator, routinely overloads its buses. It obviously has little regard for the effect of this practice on the life of its vehicles – which are not buses with proper design, but crude bus bodies on lorry chassis.  One offshoot of the overloading is that conductors do not move around and issue tickets in the buses, which is the norm in this part of the world. They sit near one entrance of the bus and expect all passengers to squeeze their way through the crush, or pass on the fare through other passengers.

Often, the moving bus approaches a fare stage in this kind of situation, without giving all passengers an opportunity to buy the ticket. These passengers are then pounced upon by “checking inspectors” who levy a fine of upto Rs. 500.

On Tuesday evening, one could see such a plight befalling a few passengers. Two girls were seriously embarrassed as the checking inspectors emptied their bags asking them to part with whatever cash they had. One of the girls started weeping. It was plainly evident that there was no intention to defraud the transport company on their part. 

Such scenes make us wonder why the Tamil Nadu Government, which wants no change in the bus operation system for Chennai, to modernise the functioning of MTC. For one thing, it needs to provide more choice for travel. This could be done, as we have pointed out in the past, by selling a variety of travel cards or passes. Secondly, there is absolutely no justification in expecting passengers to buy tickets on board, when buses have been overloaded well beyond the limit prescribed by the transport permit for the bus. This situation can be remedied only by operating more buses, of different kinds of comfort levels, and with affordable fares.

An MTC checking crew negotiating a fine with some people who have just got off a bus. A high priced deluxe service is seen in the background
An MTC checking crew negotiating a fine with some people who have just got off a bus. A high priced deluxe service is seen in the background

We emphasise at this point the need for the DMK Government, and the UPA Government’s Urban Development Ministry which is funding some of the expansion plans for Chennai transport, to modernise Chennai’s transport network in both infrastructure and operational practices.

There is no justification for Mr. Karunanidhi’s Government to fine passengers when it has not fulfilled its own obligations. In fact, the Government should be taken to court for allowing the MTC to overload its buses, which is a violation of the Motor Vehicles Act. 

In fact, the DMK Government has consistently turned a deaf ear to letters written by the Union Ministry for Urban Development asking all States to set up separate authority for integrated transport. Tamil Nadu has resisted attempts to even functionally integrate bus and train services, trotting out excuses about lack of response from the Southern Railway. 

It is condemnable that the DMK Government is recalcitrant even in the face of extraordinary levels of demand for travel in a growing economy, with the narrow view of satisfying its unionised class of transport workers, making a mockery of the principle of public transport.

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