Chennai Metro’s efforts to augment patronage with expansion projects including opening the 9 km north Chennai extension line, launch of app-based last mile connectivity and commencing the 118.9 km phase-2 have been almost grounded due to COVID-19.
Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) officials now hope they can open the north Chennai line and launch other passenger friendly initiatives before end-2020. During the intense lockdown, CMRL employees are working on shifts to ensure trains and critical systems like communication and signals are fit to be operated when services begin.
It was planned to carry 160 passengers in a four-car train with a 1,270 passenger capacity to ensure physical distance is maintained. “We are operating trains across the two corridors twice a day,” an official said. CMRL was to open the 9 km Washermenpet-Wimco Nagar line by June and work on the last part had begun when the lockdown was announced.
More than 80% of the workers were asked to stay in their shelters to prevent the virus spread, bringing construction to a halt. Around the same time, CMRL was likely to begin construction of 52 km of the 118.9 km phase-2. It had floated tenders for tunnels in a part of the stretch earlier. Officials had said tenders will be floated for the rest of the 52 km in the first half of 2020.
While 52 km of phase-2 was to be ready by 2024-25, it is not clear if the present lockdown will further delay it. But CMRL’s future plans are hit.
Before March 24, metro trains covered 45 km ferrying daily an average of 1.16 lakh passengers, about 15% of the projected 7.76 lakh. Several plans to increase footfalls were to be launched in the first half of 2020. One plan was to launch 255 cabs through a uniform app-based share service as last mile connectivity across all 32 stations. Launched in around 13 stations, it was to be extended. Work was at the final stage when the lockdown began.
A service based on QR-code for purchase of train tickets online was also planned. A QR code that appears on purchase of a ticket in the CMRL mobile app can be swiped against a scanner to enter station platforms. CMRL also planned to install signages in neighbourhoods to direct people to the nearest station. A pilot project was started near Vadapalani. The underground parking project near Central Metro, as part of the Central Square project, and the underground passenger amenities centre in Shenoy Nagar have also been hit.