Chennai: Rewind to 2010. The then DMK government launched Phase I of Chennai Metro Rail with a huge budget of Rs. 14,600 crore for a 45 km network slated for completion in 2015.
It is 2015, and even the first leg of the project—a 10 km stretch between Koyambedu and Alandur that had to be up and running by October 2014—has not taken off. The project has also grown Rs. 6,000 crore costlier owing to various factors: delays in construction; termination of two contracts; intermittent labour problems.
Recently, the mandatory safety audit and approval from the Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety (CMRS), which is required to start commercial operations, was postponed to next month.
Now, it is not clear when the project will take off. Metro expert E. Sreedharan recently said that the ruling AIADMK government has not given the project the support it deserves.
DMK party treasurer M.K. Stalin said that the four Chennai district units of the DMK would hold ‘jail bharo’ agitations at the points where the ‘Metro Rail service begins and ends’ to condemn the failure of the State to inaugurate the Metro Rail Project. “The date for the protest will be announced soon,” Mr. Stalin said.
“Even after the completion of the project between Koyambedu and Alandur, there has been no effort to operate the service, as the state government is waiting for the order on the disproportionate wealth case against the former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa,” he said.
Also, during the recent budget announcements for the State, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam only made a generalised commitment that the first phase would begin in 2015-2016, but nothing further was said about Phase I extension of the project from Washermanpet to Wimco Nagar or Phase II of the project.
Meanwhile, the city’s commuters continue to suffer, both from the continuing metro construction work and the absence of a viable mass transit alternative.