The Railways is open to integrating the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) with the metro rail project in Chennai.

“We would be more than willing to give our consent, provided a proposal comes to us from the State Government,” a senior Rail Ministry official told BusinessLine .

If it happens, Tamil Nadu will become first State where the Railways’ operated rapid transit system will be integrated with the metro project being implemented by Chennai Metro Rail Ltd (CMRL).

Integration of these two projects could also pave the way for having similar arrangements in other cities such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Patna, where metro rail projects have been approved. All these cities have local/suburban train systems.

For the Railways, this integration will mean bringing down their liabilities. For the State, it will mean increasing the share of public transport in the city, besides being able to ensure effective synergies between multiple-modes of public transport. This will also result in optimal utilisation and improving returns from the investment.

And finally, “Hiving off MTP (Metropolitan Transport Project) into an SPV or merging MTP with Chennai Metro Rail Ltd would provide the needed autonomy and local flexibility.”

CMRL is a special purpose vehicle, a joint venture with equal equity participation from the Central and State Governments on the lines of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). Kolkata Metro is the only rail project operated by Indian Railways, while Delhi and Mumbai also have special purpose vehicles their for metros.

Chennai has the unique distinction of having the first metropolitan elevated railway line (MRTS) in the country.

In January 2011, Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary had written to then Chairman of Railway Board seeking concurrence for taking up a study on proposed merger. It was also communicated that while sanctioning the project, the Union Cabinet’s decision also provided for consideration of integration of operation and Management of Chennai MRTS and CMRL.

However, there had been no response from the Railway Board. But, now indications are that the Railways could consider this proposal and take it to the logical conclusion with the formal opening of Metro Train service.

Chennai Metro is likely to start this year.