The proposed merger of Chennai Metro Railway and MRTS might soon materialise as the Southern Railway is studying the feasibility of the same in terms of the last mile connectivity.
The idea of handing over the MRTS services, which at present connects the stretch from Chennai Beach to Velachery stations, to Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) which operates the metro services across the city was mooted a few years ago as an attempt to provide seamless connectivity for the commuters.
A private consultant company, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), was appointed to prepare a feasibility report on the proposal, which was submitted in a few years back. Now that phase I of Chennai Metro is fully operational and the obstacles for the completion of MRTS line are also cleared, Southern Railway is slowly putting the merger talks back on track.
Talking to TNM about the merger, a senior railway official said, “We had a meeting in July 2018 at the secretarial level, where the consultants presented their report. Most of the things said in the report were agreed upon by MRTS and CMRL.” However, owing to some issues in relation to laying another railway line between Chennai Egmore and Chennai Beach, the merger works have been stalled. “However, Southern Railway is in the process of assessing the hurdles, and will prepare a feasibility report soon, which will be submitted to Railway and Urban Development Ministries,” the official added.
MRTS’ last obstacle cleared
The MRTS was a scheme which was originally proposed to run in two lines - one extending from Chennai Beach to Velachery via Mylapore and Thiruvanmiyur and the second line extending from Velachery to St Thomas Mount via Puzhuthivakkam and Adambakkam.
While the first line of MRTS became fully operational in 2007, the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA)’s work on the second line got stalled in the last 500 metres of the line. This was due to a legal dispute between the landowners and the government over the amount of compensation.
In December 2018, the Madras high court disposed of the petitions filed by the landowners, thereby allowing for the construction to resume. Alandur MLA TM Anbarasan confirmed that the land on that stretch is being acquired and expressed confidence in the line becoming operational soon.
Citizens wary of the merger
Though the merger is an attractive prospect for Southern Railways due to an increase in revenue, the commuters are warier.
V Subramani from the NGO Traffic and Transportation Forum said that the merger will increase the fare of the trips by multiple times. “We are now travelling in MRTS for a very low fare. If the merger happens, then the price points will range between Rs 10 and Rs 60, since CMRL rates are high,” he pointed out. While the highest fare in MRTS service at present (from Chennai Beach to Velachery, a distance of 19 km) is Rs 10, the minimum fare in CMRL service (from Airport to Meenambakkam, a distance of around 1.5 km) is Rs 10. Comparatively, CMRL charges Rs 60 to travel from Airport to Shenoy Nagar, which is 19 km one-way.
Though Subramani agreed that CMRL’s services will be more comfortable for the commuters, he added that the rate difference between the two services is quite steep. “CMRL rates do not support people from all economic classes to travel in it. Also, there are no monthly passes or season’s pass in CMRL services. Once the merger happens, we are sure that MRTS will also not have this,” he rued.