Chennai, India (Urban Transport News): In a significant move aimed at improving the user experience of the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS), the Tamil Nadu government has given its approval to a draft memorandum of understanding (MoU). This MoU outlines the strategies for revenue sharing, station development, and various other aspects, and has been submitted to the railway board for official approval.
The primary objective of this initiative is to transform the existing MRTS stations, which are currently unwelcoming and underutilized, into user-friendly spaces that cater to the needs of the public.
To execute this transformation, the state government will undertake a phased approach, starting with the acquisition of the Beach-Velachery MRTS route, which encompasses 18 stations, from the railways. The ultimate plan is to integrate this route with the Chennai metro rail and extend it to St Thomas Mount within the next one to two years.
The initial focus of the state government is on taking over the maintenance and development of the MRTS stations. Comprehensive proposals and plans are being finalized to ensure a seamless transition and effective management of these stations.
One of the critical issues addressed by this proposal is the underutilization of floor space in and around MRTS stations, which has led to them becoming hubs for urban crime. To tackle this problem, the proposal suggests establishing shops, eateries, and markets in and around the stations to attract people from the neighboring areas. This approach not only ensures a continuous flow of people but also enhances security and generates revenue.
The draft MoU, currently under review by the railway board, encompasses the specifics of revenue sharing, station development, and other critical elements. The board is expected to thoroughly assess the document and may suggest necessary additions or modifications, a process that may span several months.
Once approved, the Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA) will require a mere two weeks to initiate the process of inviting tenders for the development of these stations. Each station is expected to be assigned to a single bidder responsible for its redevelopment and maintenance. All requisite documentation has been prepared, and a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) will be established to execute the work.
In the initial phase, CUMTA will manage and maintain passenger amenities, including platforms and passenger movement areas. The remaining spaces will be handed over to private entities for commercial purposes.
CUMTA has identified Velachery, Taramani, and Thiruvanmiyur MRTS stations for commercial development. These stations will feature mini shopping malls, gaming arcades, and various facilities aimed at enhancing the overall passenger experience.
The second phase of this initiative will involve CUMTA taking full control of operations, with a separate MoU already prepared for this purpose. However, this expansion will come with increased costs. Station maintenance is estimated to require around 140 crore, while 300 crore will be allocated for track work and related expenses, according to officials.
An official stated that once the complete takeover is achieved, access control similar to metro rail stations will be implemented at all MRTS stations, with an estimated cost of at least 3 crore per station.
This transformative project promises to create a more welcoming and efficient public transportation system in Tamil Nadu, ultimately benefiting its residents and commuters.