Many anti-social elements also use the stations at night, posing a threat to travellers.

TNM Status Check How safe are Chennai local train stations at night We found out
Social MRTS Wednesday, June 29, 2016 - 16:34

Days after a 24-year-old woman was hacked to death in broad daylight at the Nungambakkam railway station, The News Minute decided to do a reality check of Chennai’s public transport system. We chose to ride the MRTS line at 8 pm on Tuesday.

Despite being only 20-years-old and having amenities such as escalators and lifts in several stations, the patronage for the MRTS is low. Unlike Chennai’s suburban railways, which have a million commuters every day, India’s first elevated line sees an average of only one lakh riders.   

We decided to start at the Indira Nagar station. Located along the IT corridor, the station is one stop away from Tidel Park. People hovered at the entrance to the station, taking shelter from the rain. What struck me as I entered the station was the sheer size of the station, which was built for bigger crowds. There were no queues at the ticket counter.  

On purchasing the tickets, we headed to the mezzanine floor, vast and empty, serving no purpose.  

The two platforms had a handful of commuters at around 8 pm, who were heading home after a long day at work. A lone security personnel manned one corner of one platform. He was responsible for keeping watch of the other platform too. My colleague Pheba, who regularly uses the MRTS, noted that the policeman on duty appeared to be a new security measure, perhaps, in the wake of the recent murder.

From Indira Nagar, we took the train to Kotturpuram. We got into the general compartment. There was no security present. While many seats on the coach were occupied, the train was far from running full.  

At Kottupuram, we made our way down to station. Much like Indira Nagar, this station too was deserted. Like many other stations, Kottupuram has two entrances/exits.  In a move to monitor crowds, there were plans to have single entry and exit points. But this remains only on paper. There are no security personnel at the station, barring the platform. None of the stations have CCTV cameras or metal detectors. 

After dark, many destitute people use the stations to sleep in. What’s more worrying is that many anti-social elements also use the stations at night, posing a threat to travellers.

The next stop was Chepauk, near the MA Chidambaram cricket stadium. Although there were definitely more people, the station itself was a picture of neglect. Escalators weren’t functional; tiles were dug up from the floors, large steel columns lay haphazardly inside the station. Water pooled around Chepauk station, as the leaky roof incessantly dripped rain water.  

Like Kotturpuram, there were people asleep inside the station and the platform. But unlike the other stations we visited, the lone policeman was missing.

Pheba and I took the ladies coach on our way back. There was no police personnel in the compartment we boarded. There were helpline numbers for the Railway Protection Force and the state’s Government Railway Police in both the general and ladies coaches.

I chose to get down at Light House, while Pheba travelled on. The station was relatively crowded. But they were not commuters. Homeless and poor, many men and women were calling it a night at the Light House station.   

After scoping out both exits, I chose, what I believed was, the safer route. The parking lots, dark and dingy, had camps of men. Dim streetlights lined the access route to the main road, located about a kilometre away. As I walked alone in the rain, I suddenly became aware of the many eyes watching me. Choosing to ignore, the inebriated catcall from a passerby, I made way out of the MRTS station and prayed I would find an autorikshaw at the earliest.
 

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