The stalemate over merger of the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) with Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) is over. “Southern Railway has given in-principle approval for handing over MRTS to CMRL during a meeting chaired by Chief Secretary Irai Anbu on May 11,” said a government official.
The merger was put on the backburner after 2018, due to differences between the State government and Southern Railway (SR), over land acquisition to lay a new line between Beach and Park Stations. “That issue will not be linked with Metro taking over MRTS,” the official said. He added that MRTS has been reporting Rs 100 crore operational loss every year.
Connecting the central business area of old Madras with the IT corridor, the MRTS has a potential capacity of 4,25,000 passengers a day. The 15-km alignment covers several significant landmarks in the city and has 18 stations. The Phase-II extension of 5-km, when completed, will add three more stations, linking the Metro corridors with MRTS and suburban rail networks.
“The decision to integrate MRTS with CMRL will help the city to work on multi-modal planning better. These stations are in high potential locations and the government should ensure improving station accessibility from neighbourhood level,” says Sivasubramaniam Jayaraman, national lead-electric mobility and transport systems, senior programme manage of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.
A government official said Chennai Metro could take into consideration the non-tariff revenue from stations. “A blueprint was prepared nearly 12 years ago to develop 190,000 sq m of commercial space in the nine stations, but the plan was never implemented,” said former Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority member secretary Krishna Kumar.
Former CMRL chief general manager Somasundaram said the merger was a long-pending issue and the government should conduct a feasibility report on ensuring the same system of track and signalling can be implemented in the MRTS stretch.