In April 2008, the Planning Commission approved the plans for developing a Metro Rail system in Chennai. But construction did not begin until about a year later. The next 6 years were quite knotty for all commuters in this major metropolitan city. Diverting traffic from several important roads into relatively obscure and longer routes were the primary source of traffic congestion and eventually excessive sweat, too many headaches and delays to work and homes. However, it can be said that the waiting was worth it.
On June 29th, just a few minutes after noon, the first train of the Chennai Metro started out on its journey from Alandur to reach Koyambedu within 25 minutes. Spanning a length of approximately 10 km, this line is a part of the 22 km long route to connect two of Chennai’s most important and iconic locations – the Chennai Central Railway Station and St. Thomas Mount. Starting the day’s work at 6 am every day, 5 dedicated trains are expected to make more than 190 trips before the Metro service retires at 9.40 pm.
Already covering a cost of Rs. 10, 752 crores since construction work began; this is easily the biggest infrastructure project in Tamil Nadu. While both the Centre and State have covered nearly 40% of the total cost as share capital and loans, the remaining investment is from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as a loan. With a total of 7 new Metro Rail lines in the works, this project is expected to help ease the traffic situation for the 4.6 million strong resident population of Chennai.
What is truly noteworthy about the first Chennai Metro journey is that it was driven by A. Preethi, a 28 year old woman. Preethi, an engineering diploma graduate from the city’s Government Dharmambal Polytechnic College, and three other women were trained for a year and half in Chennai and in Delhi. As an example for equal opportunities to both genders, this is an important step in Indian History.
A small storm has suddenly engulfed the issue regarding the price of the Metro Rail ticket. The minimum price of the ticket in the first line now open to the public is fixed at Rs. 10, while the maximum is at Rs. 40 for the travelling the total 10 km length. The opposition parties of Tamil Nadu have suddenly recruited themselves to fight for the cause of the people urging the concerned authorities to revise and reduce the ticket-fare. It is rather unclear if the opposition parties realize that reducing the fare is likely to cause a major loss in the state’s finance as the Metro Rail Project is heavily financed by loans from the Centre as well as the JICA.
The city’s pet project has also recently opened our eyes to an often overlooked aspect of erstwhile times – Safety! On June 17th, L. Giridharan, a 30-year-old IT techie, suffered severe head injuries and expired on the spot when a heavy iron girder fell from the scaffolding of the Metro Rail construction site near St. Thomas Mount. The incident outlines the pressing need to set up an independent body to provide a professional certification for engineers. This will help prevent accidental disasters in the future.