Towards a discussion of support to Urban Transport development in India Energy & Infrastructure Unit South Asia Region

Attachment I-A: Urban Transport in Chennai


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Attachment I-A: Urban Transport in Chennai

A. The State36
1. The State of Tamil Nadu, with a population of 62 million, growing at 1.1% per annum, is among the leading Indian states in terms of human development and poverty reduction. It is also among the most urbanized (55%), educated, and industrialized states. Gross Domestic Product rose from Rs.14,520 per capita in 1993 to Rs.36,138 per capita in 1998.37 Economic growth has slowed down somewhat since the mid-1990s, falling to 3-4%, and unemployment rates are second-highest in India. Also in the late 1990s, the financial position of the Tamil Nadu government deteriorated, due to a sharp rises in wages and benefits to its civil service, interest payments on loans, and payments for food subsidies. The fiscal deficit for 2002-3 was forecast at 5.7% of the Gross Domestic Product.38 This has had a negative impact on the ability of the state to invest in infrastructure and basic services, and to improve the social safety net. Priority directions seen on the critical path to accelerating economic growth include the reform of the state administration (reduce its scope and improve performance, especially on the revenue generation and budget expenditure practices), improving the overall investment climate, and attracting private capital into infrastructure and services. A reform program along these lines is underway.

B. The City, Its People and Economy

2. The City of Chennai (until 1996 referred to as Madras) has an estimated 2001 population of about 4.2 million on an area of 172 sq km.39 The wider metropolitan area has a population of 7.5 million on 1,167 sq km.40 In the 1990s, the area growth rate averaged 0.9% per annum.41 The forecast for 2011 is for 6 million people in the city and 9.5 million in the metropolitan area, but the growth appears to have slowed down since this forecast was made.

3. The city is located on level terrain on the Bay of Bengal, traversed in the west-east direction by several rivers and in the north-south direction by the man-made Buckingham Canal. It started in the early 17th century as a trading post on the Bay of Bengal, rising during the British rule to become a regional capital and an important export outlet. The construction of the port at the end of the 19th century and later on railways gave a strong push to shipping, insurance, banking and other trade related services. This pattern has been sustained ever since and the 23-berth port is now the third largest port in the country, with some 2,500 vessels calling annually. On the industry side, the city had textile mills, tanneries and leather processing, locomotive and coach manufacture, and some machine works. After independence, the industrial base was strengthened, especially in rail and automotive vehicle manufacture and complementary activities, while adding petrochemicals, power, electrical machinery and, more recently, electronics. Major industrial estates are located in the north, e.g. petrochemicals in the vicinity of the port, and along the west and south-west railway corridors (automotive industry). In the past decade, the growth has been more in small-scale industries, engineering, wholesale and retail services, banking, and diverse personal services. A “cyber-corridor” is emerging in the south (Adyar).

4. The settlement structure of Chennai is common to many large South-Asian conurbations, reflecting various economic and political eras (Tiwari, 2003; Misra and Misra, 1998). The oldest areas are the closest to the port – Georgetown, the traditional commercial center, and the Fort area, once housing the British administrative and military headquarters. The modern business and commercial developments are farther south-west, e.g., T. Nagar and Nungambakkam, along major streets such as Anna Salai, and in the south (Adyar). There are other identifiable patches of higher density throughout the area: some correspond to the original townships, gradually absorbed by the city, and others have developed around large industrial estates. The city has large slum areas, especially but not only in peri-urban locations, in the south, and in the vicinity of industrial estates. The slums are the way stations for the rural poor seeking or holding informal jobs, but not just that; some of the slum dwellers have been there for several generations.

5. The average gross residential density in the city is high, about 250 people per hectare in the city.42 Peak densities reach twice that high in Georgetown, and somewhat less in Purasawakkam and Triplicane. The density pattern is poly-nuclear, but differing sharply from poly-nuclear cities with well-developed land markets. Urban planners in Chennai followed a practice common in Indian cities since independence whereby relatively low floor space indices were applied in central areas and more relaxed indices were applied in the outer areas. This also meant that the municipal infrastructure in place was designed for the perpetuation of these densities. The construction of higher-rise buildings, allowed since the mid-1980s, placed a considerable pressure on roads and other utilities, to which the rise of motorization added pollution and accidents.
6. The city has been plagued by a low overall employment rate and a slow growth of employment in the formal sector. Informal employment is estimated to account for as much as 58% of all jobs. This includes such low-wage jobs as self-employed traders, street vendors, rickshaw pullers, and bicycle repairmen but also somewhat better paid jobs in construction, manufacture and repair. The household income distribution in 1998 was reported as follows:

Annual Income (Rs) No.of hh (000) %

Less than 37,500 565 37.4

Rs 37,500-50,000 187 12.4

Rs 50,000-62,500 143 9.5

Rs 62,500-75,000 143 9.5

Rs 75,000-87,500 120 8.0

Rs 87,500-100,000 79 5.2

Rs 100,000-112,500 78 5.2

Rs 112,500-125,000 79 5.2

Above 125,000 115 7.6

Total number of households 1,509,00043

7. These data show that the majority of the residents of Chennai (60%) have low incomes, less than (roughly) Rs.5,000 a month. Close to 40% of the population have very low incomes, less than (roughly) Rs.3,000 a month. About 24% of the population is estimated to fall under the poverty line and most (about 1 million) live in slums.44 Even recognizing that the survey is more than 5 years old, and incomes have moved upwards since, these numbers are sobering. This state of affairs is in sharp contrast to the visible signs of new wealth – the high-rise buildings and motor vehicles.

C. Transport Demand: Modal Split and Motorization

8. The Chennai Metropolitan Area (CMA) is served by both road and rail networks. 45The road system is based on 3-4 major radial roads, and an inner ring road. Secondary and tertiary networks are not well developed. Radial roads converge on the traditional center around Georgetown, roughly in the same corridors as the rail lines of the Indian Railways. Vehicular traffic is quite heterogeneous, with non-motorized modes (bicycles and bicycle rickshaws) being squeezed out by motorized 2-wheelers and motorized 3-wheleer rickshaws. Main public transport services are provided by Chennai Metropolitan Transport Corporation (CMTC), a public-sector monopoly. CMTC operates a fleet of about 2,800 buses in street traffic, employs some 18,400 staff, and carries about 3.5 million passenger trips a day. The Indian Railways (specifically the Southern Railway, the zonal department of the IR) operates commuter rail services on 3 lines, all electrified. They converge on Georgetown, carrying about 645,000 passengers a day. An 8.6 km urban railway, the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) has been in operation since 1997. MRTS was constructed on a mostly elevated right-of-way due south from Georgetown, and represents Phase I of a larger project (Phase II is under construction). It carries an insignificant number of passengers, about 9,000 per day.

9. Daily per capita trip rates in Chennai increased from 0.87 in 1971 to 1.28 in 1991 (0.73 for motorized trips), with an average trip length of 10.1 km. Trip rates are forecast to increase to about 1.50 in 2011 (0.93 for motorized trips).46 Over the same period, the overall modal split (in %) changed as follows:
1970 1984 1992

walk 20.70 28.07 29.50

bicycle 21.30 10.70 14.20

public bus 41.50 45.53 37.90

commuter rail 11.50 9.03 4.10

2-wheel motorized 1.70 3.24 7.00

car 3.20 1.45 2.50

other 0.10 1.98 4.80

10. These numbers are likely to have changed since the mid-1990s in favor of individual motor vehicles, especially motorized 2-wheelers.47

11. Since economic growth picked up in the last decade, the city has been under the onslaught of increased individual motorization. Motor vehicles in total have been growing at about 10-12% per annum in the past decade, with the highest rates recorded for 2-wheelers and motorized rickshaws. In 2003, there were about 1.5 million motor vehicles registered in the City of Chennai, and 1.8 million in the metropolitan area.48 There also some 1.4 million bicycles. Of the motorized vehicles, more than a million are 2-wheelers and a quarter million are passenger cars. The breakdown by vehicle categories is as follows:

Private use vehicles

2-wheelers 1,099,950

tricycle autos 2,559

3-wheelers 4,781

cars, station wagons and jeeps 262,023

other 8,695

sub-total 1,378,008
For hire vehicles

CMTC buses 3,673

Schoolbuses 740

autorickshaws 39,782

taxis, cabs omni buses 12,007

freight vehicles 28,726

other 1,399

sub-total 86,327

Total 1,464,33549
12. The corresponding motorization rates are 62 cars per 1,000 population, but 324 cars and motorized 2-wheelers per 1,000 population. This is a high rate, exceeding that of many cities in Western Europe.
13. Notwithstanding rapid motorization, the above data on modal split show that walking and biking accounted for about 44% of all trips. Already this simple information is important for policy making, since the lowest-income groups and school children and students tend to be captives of walking and biking modes. Bus transport, though in apparent decline, still accounted for 38% of all trips. Together, non-motorized and public transport modes accounted for nearly 82% of all trips.
14. Bus passengers tend to come from the lower income strata. A survey of CMTC bus passengers in 1997 disclosed the following income distribution for households:50

Monthly income Rs/HH % of sample

No inc. reported 3.0

less than 1,000 10.4

1001-2500 32.0

2501-5000 34.5

5001-7500 16.0

more than 7,500 4.0
When this information is cross-referenced with the income distribution data cited above (acknowledging one-year difference in survey dates), it would appear that about 80% of CMTC passengers belong to low-income category and about 45% of these are in a very low income category. It would be of essence to know also how many bus passengers are “captives” and how many have access to a motorized 2-wheelers. Data from 1993 surveys in major Indian cities disclosed that households across all income groups owned motorized 2-wheelers, though in varying proportions.51
15. Service schedules and fares for bus and commuter rail services are decided by different authorities, state and federal government, respectively. Altogether, there is no coordination between bus and rail services. This is best seen in the existence of bus lines parallel to commuter rail and MRTS lines (both running losses) and in different fare structures. Basic bus fares and 2nd class rail fares are shown in the box below. The average fare paid on the bus system is Rs 3.4/trip. The sharp decline of fares per km of distance reflects the State policy of helping distant regional populations get jobs in the city. Limited-stop, express and de luxe services cost more, up to Rs 500 for a 4-km trip to Rs 1,500 for a 46-km trip. Monthly passes are offered at a 30% discount and school children have a 50% discount. For occasional users, bus travel is significantly cheaper, with the difference increasing as trips become longer. Monthly tickets for buses, however, are much more expensive than for the commuter rail.



Single journey (Rs)

Monthly ticket (Rs)



















































Train fares are for 2nd class commuter rail. Fares for MRTS are higher due to a surcharge of Rs 1.00 for a single journey and Rs 20.00 for monthly tickets for all distances.

Sources: the bus fares, courtesy K. Kumar, CMDA; the commuter rail fares, courtesy Neenu Ittyerah, Southern Railway

16. How large are public transport fares relative to low incomes? At Rs 140, a monthly bus pass for one person for a 10-km trip (roughly the average trip length) represents 14% of a Rs.1,000 household income; this becomes 26% for a 30-km trip. A commuter rail monthly pass for a 10-km trip or less represents 7% of the income, and a pass for a 30-km trip would take 12%. For a monthly income of Rs.2,500, these percentages would be 6% and 10% for a 10-km and 35-km trips by bus, respectively. Equivalent monthly passes for the commuter rail would take 3% and 5%, respectively. In 1997, 13% of the surveyed CMTC bus passengers had household incomes of Rs.1,000 or less, and about 45% had household incomes of Rs.2,500 or less. Incomes are likely to have risen since 1997, so these percentages will be smaller. The conclusion is that for very low-income people, these fares may be onerous.

D. Roads, Traffic and Parking

17. The road network is a patchwork reflecting the city’s development along national roads and railways, well before the advent of individual motor vehicles. The network between the high-density corridors is poorly developed, since in-fill construction has often been done illegally. Even major roads exhibit variable widths, different cross-section design standards, and are rarely protected from adjacent land uses. Only short segments, constructed and/or improved over the last 10-15 years introduce a functional specialization and use different road design standards, suitable for urban traffic stream with a great heterogeneity of vehicle types. There are about 2,500 km of roads, of which about 1,000 are said to matter for motor vehicle traffic. Of these, 300 km carry bus lines, which can be taken as an indicator of importance.

18. The network is dominated by three major roads, all radial, really urban sections of state roads leading to the traditional city center in Georgetown: the south-westerly Anna Salai (Mount Road, 128,000 vehicles per day) continuing as Grand Southern Trunk Road (NH45 towards Trichy); the westerly Perlyar E.V.R. High Road (144,000 vehicles per day), becoming NH4 going toward Bangalore; and the north-westerly Erukkancheri High Road becoming the Northern Trunk Road (NH5 toward Calcutta). Other important roads include the westerly Thiruvallur Road (#205) and Kamarajar Salai (South Beach Road) from Georgetwon southwards. The Inner Ring Road (Jawaharlal Nehru Salai) Road is located some 8-10 km west of the Bay, at the city limits, and carries about 110,000 vehicles per day.52

19. The traffic control system in Chennai is rudimentary as regards traffic signs, road markings and intersection channelization. Fixed-time traffic signals exist at 115 intersections, without any interconnection. Another 20-30 will come on line soon. Video cameras were installed at 8 intersections. Other intersections are managed by traffic policemen.

20. Traffic safety has been a sore point, with accidents peaking in 2001 at 5,280, of which 708 deaths and 3,800 injuries.53 The corresponding rates are 40 accidents and 5.3 deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles. Most of the people killed were 2-wheeler riders/passengers (208), pedestrians (190), and cyclists (126). Galvanized into action, the Chennai Traffic Police spearheaded in 2002 a multi-faceted Project Safe Roads. It combined classic law enforcement actions (control and ticketing) with corrective engineering measures, and a large-scale public campaign based on networking with schools, media, civic associations and neighbourhood groups. The accident trend has been reversed, the total reducing to about 3,700 in 2002-2003, with about 400 fatalities and 2,800 injured. The Chennai City Traffic Police, with its 47 traffic police stations and 2,000 staff, are becoming a strong institution. They are continuing their activist stand, their thinking going well beyond traffic safety and traffic management concerns into the domain of medium-to-long term transport (infrastructure) investment program.

21. Parking provision and management are in infancy, but the subject has made it to the political agenda.54 Most vehicles park without any control, on pavements and/or sidewalks. In Chennai City, there are some 160 street “stretches” with authorized parking, with fees charged at 69 of them. There are no meters. The Chennai Municipal Corporation leases the collection of parking fees to the private sector, with an annual revenue of about Rs 30 million (US$0.63 million). Cars pay Rs 2 for short-term parking and Rs 20 for the whole day. Two-wheelers pay about half that, and bikes are free. This initiative suffers from numerous problems: poor markings and information boards, encroachment by street traders, and overcharging and pilferage by fee collectors. Off street parking for general public use is available only at the railway stations, the airport and in the beach area.

E. Chennai Metropolitan Transport Corporation (CMTC)
22. CMTC was created in 1972, under Companies Act of 1956, in a wave of nationalization of the then private operators, whose performance had become unacceptable. It is owned by the State of Tamil Nadu, which appoints all members of its Board of Directors. CMTC operates conventional, scheduled bus services, with a staff of about 18,000 and a fleet of about 2,780 buses (2,200-2,400 in peak service).55 Most buses are single-deck Ashok-Leylands built on a truck chassis. The average fleet age as of the end-2003 is 6.2 years; 950 buses are older than 8 years and would be replaced if the company’s finances allowed it. The two tables on the following page provide the main operating and financial statistics of the company for the last two years, including performance indicators.

Metropolitan Transport Corporation LTD – Chennai

Selected operational and financial statistics






Operable fleet (vehicles)



Fleet in service (vehicles)



Average fleet age (years)



Gross bus-km (million)



Passengers (million)



Passengers per day (million)



Costs (Rs million)
















Financial charges






sub-total costs



Revenues (Rs million)

fare sales



other income



profit on sale of assets






sub-total revenues



Result (Rs million) before tax



Metropolitan Transport Corporation LTD – Chennai

Selected performance indicators



Fleet utilization (%)



Average daily km per bus



Staff per bus



Average monthly wage (Rs)



Wage bill (% of total costs)



Breakdowns per 10,000 km



Accidents per 100,000 km



Cost recovery from fares

% of direct op. costs



% of total costs



23. In addition to ordinary services (60% of bus-km), CMTC operates, limited-stop and express services (30% of total bus-km) and de luxe services (10%). It carries an estimated 3.5-3.8 million passenger trips per day, which is in decline in spite of the population growth and increasing mobility rates. Buses run in mixed traffic, with exception of Anna Salai, where there is an exclusive bus lane provided along about 2.5 km on each side of the road.56 Average peak service headways are 15 min on arterial roads and 30 min on less important roads. The average commercial speed is 16 km/h.

24. CMTC has always been considered as one of the best-run urban public transport companies in India (together with BEST-Mumbai and Bangalore MTC in recent years). Performance indicators show reasonable levels of fleet utilization, maintenance and safety, though with much room for improvement. The weakest part of the performance profile is staffing which, at 6.6 staff per bus, is twice the efficient European levels and approaches that of Chinese, public-owned urban bus companies. In addition, the average expenditure of Rs.9,000-10,000 places CMTC employees in a significantly higher income category than the majority of its passengers. The wage bill is a high proportion of total costs for a country with high levels of unemployment and informal employment.

25. The financial situation of CMTC, as reflected in its balance sheet, is not good: its working capital is negative, accounts payable are high and growing, and more than half of the company’s debt is short-term. The finances of CMTC have been subject to vagaries of fare policies dictated by the state government, the scale and timing of compensation payments for discount tickets and uneconomical routes, as well as the relations between the state and the organized labor. The state policy generally has been to keep the fares low on the account of low incomes of the population, make up the gap in the operating income through compensation payments, and the capital budget through subsidies. This has ensured that the services remained at a very basic level, acceptable to the majority of passengers while the level of motorization was low. This position of course is in the process of rapid change. In the last two years, following some much-needed fare increases, CMTC has come close to breaking even with revenue derived from fares at traditional levels of service. The gap of 10% could be closed even within the present regulatory arrangement with twin actions on the cost side and revenue side. If, however, CMTC tried to raise its level of service, a major restructuring effort would be necessary in several dimensions.

26. The CMTC has had a monopoly position, which is now under question. A wave to bring the private sector back into public transport services started in 2002 and was immediately opposed by the unions, who are arguing for an increased public investment in the sector. The specific proposal in this instance is the introduction of out-sourcing bus services to private operators using a “kilometer scheme” (gross cost contract) as in Bangalore. The matter is now in courts, with a State High Court ruling expected within months (early in 2004). As an interim relief measure, some 250 minibuses have been licensed to provide services in peripheral areas of the CMA.

F. Commuter Rail Services

27. The Indian Railways enters the city along three lines, all converging on the Georgetown area. Their combined corridor length is 117.8 km. The broad-gauge north-bound line from Chennai Central to Ennore and Gummidipoondi (46.8 km, 13 stations) has double tracks dedicated to suburban operations. The west-bound line, also broad-gauge, from Chennai central to Tiruvallur (42 km away, 17 stations), has 4 lines for about 15 km and 3 lines thence to Tiruvallur. The third line, in the south-western alignment, from Chennai Beach to Tambaram is 29 km long (18 stations) and has a mixture of meter-gauge and broad-gauge lines, two dedicated to suburban operations and one for all trains. The process of conversion to broad gauge is underway. In the outer parts of the metropolitan area, some rail stations have become industrial and/or residential sub-centers, demonstrating the potential of this mode to become a backbone of the regional and urban transport network. At present, however, rail lines carry only an estimated 643,000 passengers per day.57 This passenger density (1.9 million passengers/km/annum) is comparable to that of the Kolkata Metro, but it could be much higher. It is being held back by the competition from parallel bus lines; unsuitability of services and fares for urban travel patterns, fleet size constraints (themselves imposed by poor financial results) and absence of complementary land use developments.58

28. The following table shows partial financial results of these services. The rubric “expenditures” consists of direct operating costs only. Cost recovery has hovered between 50 and 60% of direct operating costs.59








(in Rs million)

Broad gauge lines













Meter gauge line













All lines













Cost recovery (%)






Earnings gap (Rs mn)






Source: Southern Railway, 5 Dec 2003

Because of the strong pressure to keep monthly fares low, especially for long-distance commuting, to assist workers seeking jobs in the informal sector but unable to move residence, the Railway tried increasing tickets for single fares only to see its traffic erode to cheaper bus lines. Over years, the Railway subsidized these losses, and made direct investments in electrification, gauge conversion, double-tracking, extension, rolling stock replacement, and other improvements on these lines. This policy has been discontinued in part; new co-financing arrangements with the State of Tamil Nadu are sought for all extensions as it is being done with the Phase II of the MRTS in Chennai (see below).

G. The Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS)
29. The MRTS as it is today is considered to be Phase I of a larger, 4-phase project. If and when completed, the line would make a ring around the city, with interchanges with south-west and west bound commuter rail lines.

30. The present 8.6 km, 1,676 mm gauge, double-track line, was conceived in 1970’s, when Chennai’s population grew at exceptionally high rates. It was approved by the Planning Commission and the Railway Board in 1983-84, as a fully-funded investment of the Government of India, to be implemented and eventually operated by the Southern Railway department of Indian Railways. The Ministry of Railways provided all technical support. The cars were constructed by Integral Coach Factory (Chennai based). The construction (including rolling stock) cost was forecast at Rs.535 million (in 1980 terms). When Phase I was completed in 1997, 20 years after its conception, the total cost came to

Rs.2,690 million60. Government of Tamil Nadu contributed about 20 hectares of land, including 0.5 ha of private land. Land acquisition problems were formidable though the alignment was chosen to minimize this.61 About 3,500 families were affected by the project and received a total Rs.60 million in compensation.

31. The line is partly elevated (5.8 km out of 8.6 km total) and has 8 stations, 5 of which are elevated. It starts at the Chennai beach, near Fort St. George and Chennai Central stations (without a direct interchange), and goes straight south till Thirumylai, literally perched on the banks of the Buckingham Canal, and in the walking distance from the Bay. MRTS runs 90 trains per day, with 15 min headways in the peak and 30 min off peak. It was designed for a maximum load of 600,000 passengers per day, but carries only about 9,000.62 This is due to its poor location relative to sources and destinations of passengers, especially the low-density area between the line and the Bay, the proximity of parallel and fare-competitive bus lines, and poor feeder/interchange facilities.63

32. Separate financial data for the MRTS could not be obtained for this report. Fares (cited above) are marginally higher than for other commuter rail lines. The fare revenue is said to cover the cost of energy and materials. The cost recovery is likely to be significantly lower than that shown above for the aggregate rail operation.

33. Phase II, to the industrial estate at Velacheri in the south-west, has been under construction since 1998. It will be elevated along 7.9 km, out of its 11.2 km total and have 7 elevated and 2 at-grade stations. Its construction costs are forecast at Rs.6.05 billion rupees (about US$126 million at end-2003 exchange rates), of which the Government of India will contribute one-third and Tamil Nadu two-thirds.64 The latter will also contribute 100 ha of state-owned land and about 9 ha of private land. The compensation, expected to involve about 2,500 households, will be about Rs.250 million (US$5.2 million). Expectations are that the complete Phase I and II sections will carry 29,600 passengers per hour per direction (during peak periods) in 122 trains, and carry an average daily total of 424,000 passengers. This corresponds to a passenger density of 6.4 million per line km per year, close to that of the Beijing Metro and somewhat higher than that of the Paris Metro (network-wide). This appears less than likely.

34. Phase III, just 5 km long, would connect the MRTS with the south-west commuter rail line at St. Thomas Mount station. This is expected to cost Rs.3.78 billion (US$78.8 million). The Government of Tamil Nadu is seeking a participation from the Government of India for this phase, using the same formula as for Phase II.

H. Institutions

35. The key state-level transport institutions active in Chennai, and their subordinate city institutions, are as follows:

  • Department of Highways and Rural Works, responsible for state roads located in Chennai, essentially the three main radial roads plus the Inner Ring;

  • Municipal Administration and Water Supply, responsible for Chennai Municipal Corporation (CMC), including the activities of its Commissioner related to roads, waste collection, etc. (and for corresponding departments in municipalities and town panchayats outside Chennai City). CMC is responsible for all non-state roads in the city. In addition, through an agreement with the State Department of Highways, CMC takes care of maintenance of stet roads.

  • Transport Department, responsible for Chennai Metropolitan Transport Corporation, and for setting government policy in the urban public transport sector;

  • Home Department, responsible (through Commissioner, Transport) for transport regulation and motor vehicle regulation, and (through Traffic Police) for traffic control, traffic management and law enforcement; Chennai City Traffic Police works within the Corporation boundary, while District Police work in the metropolitan area;
  • Housing and Urban Development Department, through Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), responsible for all transport planning and programming; also, through Town and Country Planning Department, responsible for urban and transport planning outside Chennai Metropolitan Area;

  • Tamil Nadu Urban Finance and Infrastructure Development Corporation, a parastatal owned by the state government, functions as a transitional bank for local governments, with funds drawn from various national funds (see below), international financial institutions (including the World Bank), and private sources.

36. The key planning institution is CMDA, the statutory planning body for the entire metropolitan area, acting under the authority of Town and Country Planning Act 1971. It is responsible for: (i) preparing the master plan (land use and supporting infrastructure) (ii) preparing detailed plans and investment projects in housing, sites and services, transport and other urban sectors; (iii) project implementation and/or coordination; (iv) overseeing private investments to ensure consistency with the master plan; (v) commissioning diverse studies; and (vi) acting as nodal agency for national funding institutions, such as Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) and Megacities Scheme. CMDA has a staff of about 900 arranged into units according to broad planning and development functions. Some units are spatially defined (e.g. area plans), others by sector (e.g. infrastructure planning unit, covering roads and public transport), or by output (e.g. a master planning unit. Committees are used to deal with focus subjects, e.g. Traffic Improvement Committee, set up in 1996 to deal with the acute traffic congestion. The first Master Plan was completed in 1975 (horizon 1991) and approved by the state government. The Second Master Plan (horizon 2011) was completed and approved by CMDA in 1994-95, and released in printed form, but the subsequent debate involving all levels of government, NGOs and others has lasted years, delaying the final state government approval.

37. CMDA has been the most active local institution in the field of urban transport. In 1991 it commissioned what would prove to be the most important transport planning study, Chennai Comprehensive Transport and Traffic Study (finished in 1995, see below). Later on, it produced a Traffic Action Plan for Chennai, which has been the basis for much of the work done with the World Bank and proposed for the future.

38. Major urban transport projects in which CMDA was involved with World Bank finance (through a sequence of 2 Madras Urban Development Projects, then 2 Tamil Nadu Urban Development Projects) include:

  • the 11.7 km Inner Ring Road;

  • at-grade and multi-grade interchanges between state roads such as Anna Salai with non-state roads and railways;

  • pedestrian subways;

  • widening 21 km of national highways (inclusive of separate bike lanes and pedestrian platforms);

  • 3 major and 7 smaller river bridges;

  • fleet augmentation for MTC, involving 1,170 buses.

39. In addition, CMDA contributed to planning and executing the MRTS project Phase I, and the bus-and-truck terminal at Madhavaram. Its work on MRTS is continuing during Phase II and III, including also efforts to increase the land use density in the Phase I and II corridors so as to increase the patronage of the system (study completed in 2003). CMDA also pilots the effort to construct an Outer Ring Road in Chennai, apparently including a provision for a rail rapid transit line (see below).

40. The most important national institution active in CMA’s transport matters is Southern Railway, a zonal department of India Railways, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Railways.65 Southern Railway operates the commuter rail lines as well as Chennai MRTS, including decisions on service parameters and fares, and all maintenance. It is also responsible for replacement and expansion investments for the entire rail system.

41. The Government of India has set up several instruments to participate in funding urban projects, including urban transport projects. The longest-established approach has been to provide funding for large individual projects through the Planning Commission. Chennai MRTS Phase I was funded in this manner. A more recent approach, conceived in the wake of adopting the 74th CA, has been to finance urban expenditures by state or local governments through a plethora of funds, such as Megacity Scheme, Urban Reform Incentive Fund, and City Challenge Fund and Pool Financing. All of these are active in Chennai.

I. Transport Planning and Strategy

42. The first Comprehensive Transport and Traffic Study for the city was done in1970-74 (by MATSU Consultants). This was the era when motorization levels were low and public transport modes were predominant. Its most visible recommendations therefore included improvements of the three suburban rail lines, and the construction of the MRTS, this last meant to grow into an orbital railway, plus an augmentation of the bus fleet. The MATSU study’s road recommendations included an Inner Ring Road and a package of (road) corridor improvements. These propositions were afterward taken up in greater detail and implemented to the degree allowed by the available funds. The Inner Ring road was constructed with part-financing from the World Bank, the commuter rail lines were upgraded, but only a fragment of the MRTS (Phase I) could be built.

43. The next and the latest transport development (master) plan was produced during 1991-1995 under the Chennai Comprehensive Transport and Traffic Study (CTTS), by RITES, Pallavan and Kirloskar Consultants (CTTS Final Report, September 1995). The study combined investment, policy and institutional recommendations at varying levels of detail. Its key tangible output was a 10-year program of 25 schemes consisting of road and intersections improvements, costing about Rs 1.01 billion in 1995 terms (US$ 32.2 at the then exchange rate). The program was divided into 6 groups: flyovers; rail crossings; pedestrian subways; road widening; traffic management schemes; and parking schemes. Pre-feasibility analyses were carried out for most large items from this list. Since many, if not most, of these investment have not been implemented, due to a lack of funds, an effort is underway to update demand and modal split estimates from the CTTS and re-check the attractiveness of the recommended investments.

44. The CTTS also tested some longer-term investment scenarios, essentially large-scale road, busway and rail projects. The recommended variant included the following: (i) extension of the MRTS (Phase II), to Taramani (or Velacheri); (ii) an exclusive busway on Anna Salai; (iii) a third commuter rail track on the North line up to Minjur; (iv) a National Highway Bypass (Outer Ring Road); and (v) rail ring road from Vilivakkam (on the Western line) to Taramani.66 The package was to be implemented by 2011 and estimated to cost Rs 9.3 billion (US$297 million), excluding rail vehicles. 67 Of these, MRTS Phase II is under construction. The Outer Ring Road, 62 km long, from Valadur in the south to Minjur in the north, is now estimated to cost Rs.4.5 billion (about US$ 94 million).68 Phase I, from Vandalur on the Grand Southern Trunk to Tiruvallur Road (29.2 km), is being designed and works are expected commence in the nearest future. Anna Salai Busway and the rail ring were not done, and appear abandoned.69

45. In 2003, CMDA produced an update of the investment program put forward in the CTTS and stated the underlying transport strategy.70 The strategy first makes references to a continuing urban planning approach to decongest the city-core, directing urban development along main transport corridors, and moving certain traffic intensive activities away from the central business district. A more flexible zoning regulation is aimed to bring residences, jobs and educational institutions closer. Turning to transport matters, the strategy expresses a preference for: (i) moving people rather than vehicles (with a 70% public transport modal share as a target); and (ii) maximizing the use of the present transport infrastructure. The tangible orientations include the following:

  • urban rail network will be strengthened and expanded;

  • on the three major radial roads (Anna Salai, Periyar, and Nehru Salai), capacity will be expanded using area traffic control, promoting bus lanes, and constructing elevated highways in their median;

  • city roads will be concreted;

  • road density in peri-urban areas will be increased “to match the spatial strategy pursued”;

  • major bottlenecks in road and rail corridors, such as narrow bridges and at-grade rail crossings, will be removed;

  • the role of bus routes as feeders to rail stations, and generally inter-modal facilities, will be strengthened; and

  • new public transport options (LRT, skybus) will be considered in selected corridors.

46. A few comments on this strategy are in order:

  • except for the exclusive bus lanes, there is no mention of traffic restraint, e.g. by using parking charges; this may be an omission by chance, since CMDA has commissioned a comprehensive parking study and there appears much interest in intensifying parking management and charging program;

  • in spite of the declaration of preference for people (not vehicles) and for non-motorized modes, there are no specific provisions for these modes;

  • bus lanes and the role of buses as feeders are the only mentions of the street-bus mode: is there nothing to be done to improve street-bus services, which carry on the order of 90% of all public transport trips in Chennai;

  • bus rapid transit, a major urban public transport mode in many mega-cities, is not included as a possibility.

47. A summary of the investment program is shown on the table below. It is recognized that the first-year (2003-04) element is largely committed, the three year program (2004-07) is also reasonably firm, while the longer-term element is still in sketch-plan stage. Also, it is noted that the program does not include any investments for the Chennai Metropolitan Transport Corporation. With these qualifications in mind, the following observations can be made:

  • the underlying strategic preference is for major rail projects: of the total amount of US$1,976 million, $762 million (39%) is for the MRTS and $168 million (9%) is for commuter rail lines; combined, this is 48%; if $112.5 million (6%) for the LRT/skybus (both rail-based) is included, the sum is just above one billion dollars (54% of the total);

  • the next preference is for large-scale road projects: US$875 (44%) million is for radial and ring corridors and major interchanges;

  • everything else gets 4%; roads in peri-urban areas get US$ 4.7 million (compare to $16.7 million for 2 truck terminals);

  • since it is not likely that Chennai Metropolitan Area would be able to mobilize the resources for a US$2 billion program over the next 10 years, it would be prudent to attach some measure of “attraction” to each element, an economic rate of return or present worth. An investment for which an evaluation was not done, even at a sketch-planning level, should not be included on the list.

48. In sum, the strategy appears to rest on two poles. The first is accommodation with the current and expected motorization in the classic “predict and provide” mode. This is counterbalanced by major capital funds for urban rail -- the most capital-intensive and most risky form of urban public transport. The risk is high enough for the construction cost side of these projects, but is even higher for the operational stage. Both of these should be of particular relevance in Chennai, given the history of long construction periods and relatively low passenger traffic on the commuter rail lines and practically zero traffic on the MRTS Phase I.

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