The much anticipated underground line of Chennai Metro Rail will open for the public on Sunday, making the city the fourth in the country to launch such a facility after Kolkata, Delhi and Bengaluru.
The line will cover a distance of eight kilometres from Nehru Park to Koyambedu, through tunnels and seven underground stations, to connect the already operational line at Koyambedu.
A metro rail official confirmed they are all set to open the city’s first underground line on May 14. “Yes, we are ready. We have conducted inspections, trial runs and completed the finishing touches to all the stations,” the official said.
The inauguration comes almost a month after the commissioner of metro rail safety gave authorisation for commercial operations after a three-day inspection across the stretch. Tamil Nadu minister for industries, steel control, mines & minerals and special initiatives M C Sampath visited the underground line between Thirumangalam and Nehru Park stations on Tuesday.
The minister inspected the work in progress and safety measures, besides the facilities at the stations. The inauguration of the first underground stretch of phase-1 of the project, which is jointly funded by the Centre and state, is expected to be attended by top officials from the ministry of urban development and the state transport department besides other senior officials from the state.
The stations will connect several neighbourhoods including Kilpauk, New Avadi Road, Shenoy Nagar, Aminjikarai, Anna Nagar and Thirumangalam, giving access to mass transit facility for its residents for the first time. A part of the line will run about 18 metres under the arterial Poonamallee High Road.
With the underground line, commuters can head anywhere from Nehru Park to the airport in one direction, and to Little Mount in the other, in about 60 minutes with a single ticket. However, they may have to switch corridors at the Alandur metro station, which is the elevated transit hub.
The trains will run along both tunnels only between Koyambedu and Shenoy Nagar. Only one tunnel will be operational for trains running up and down between Shenoy Nagar and Nehru Park, as it would not be possible for trains to change tracks without a crossover. There is a crossover at Shenoy Nagar and another is being built at Central metro station. Hence, the other tunnel between Shenoy Nagar and Nehru Park will be opened along with Central metro station, planned by the end of 2017.
The stations are also built underneath prime locations in the city, giving commuters easy access. Four entry/exit points built with elevators and escalators on either side of roads will make it hassle-free for passengers to get in and out of stations without having to cross the roads. The stations are also located close to stops for MTC buses which can ferry passengers to other parts of the city. However, they may not provide the last mile connectivity where commuters will be able to reach the interior areas of the neighbourhoods around the stations in small buses or share autos.
While the underground stations are similar to the existing elevated stations in terms of their two-level station design and ticket or token vending machines, passengers will still experience many new features. These may include air-conditioned interiors, tunnel ventilation systems, platform screen doors and detailed route maps to guide passengers to nearby localities.
Metro rail’s first line was launched in June 2015 between Koyambedu and Alandur, covering a distance of 11 km through an elevated corridor. It was followed a nine kilometre elevated line from Little Mount to the airport in September 2016.