For 29-year-old M Monisha, the toughest part of the daily commute from her home in Avadi to her office in Mambalam is not inside the crowded train. It starts after she gets down at Chennai Central to walk through an ill-lit subway across the Poonamalee High Road to the Park station and catch another crowded train to Mambalam. During monsoon, it becomes worse due to water-logging.
Every day, residents who commute from the western suburbs to the southern fringes of the city have to change trains at Chennai Central because there are no direct EMU services linking Chennai’s two most-patronised suburban lines — Tiruvallur-Chennai and Chennai-Tambaram — despite a link at Chennai Beach. But this is set to change as the Chennai division of Southern Railway is mulling a ‘through service’ during peak hours from Tiruvallur to Tambaram via Chennai Beach. The provision was discussed on the sidelines of a Divisional Rail Users Consultative Committee (DRUCC) meet on January 31. Officials said around 60,000 people, almost 20% of the total number of passengers on the section, travel from western suburbs like Avadi, Tiruninravur and Tiruvallur to areas Guindy, Adambakkam and Tambaram.
Railways could not do this until now because on the Tambaram section 12-car EMU trains are run, while on the Tiruvallur section nine-car EMUs are operated. But divisional engineers have completed extending platforms at more than 30 stations on the Tiruvallur section to run 12-car trains. At least four 12-car rakes are on their way to Chennai to be run on the Tiruvallur section, said a senior official. However, railway officials are yet to decide on the schedule of these direct services which sources said would be finalised after accounting for operational constraints.
The completion of the quadrapuling project on the Beach-Washermanpet section could be a roadblock though. “But a few trial services can be run even in current scenario,” a top official said.
The move comes at a time when higher bus fares have pushed intracity commuters to train services, something reflected in the increase in the number of season tickets sold by the railways. With increase in number of coaches and through services.
Passenger associations have welcomed the move for a through train. “I can travel on the same train from without getting down at Beach or Central to interchange to Park,” said 44-year-old John Charles, who travels from Pattabiram to Chetpet every day. “There is a direct bus, but it takes almost 20 minutes more depending on the traffic. Commuters are also exposed to dust pollution too,” said John, adding that women’s safety is a concern in the city’s buses.
While direct buses are not available between the western and southern suburbs, services connect Avadi to T Nagar. But given the long travel time, some commuters said they preferred trains to buses.