R Sriram, a resident of Pallavaram, has been waiting to take the Metro to his office in Broadway, and put an end to his stressful  commute by car.  His wish has finally come true with the inauguration of the final 10-km stretch between AG-DMS and Washermanpet on Sunday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, via a video conference from Tiruppur, in the presence of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edapaddi K Palaniswami.

Now, the entire 45-km first phase of the Chennai Metro rail network is up and running.

A passenger can now take a ride from Washermanpet to Chennai airport (21 km) in about 45 minutes and for ₹60 as against twice the time and more than triple the cost it would take to go by road.

The final 10-km stretch is entirely underground with stations at AG-DMS, Thousand Lights, LIC, Government Estate, Chennai Central, Madras High Court, Mannady and Washermenpet.

Long wait

It has been a decade-long wait for Chennaites to see the first phase completed after construction began in June 2009, covering seven stations from Koyambedu to Alandur over a distance of 10 km with operations starting in June 2015.

Following this was the opening of the section from Little Mount to Chennai airport (September 2016), Alandur to St. Thomas Mount (October 2016), Koyambedu to Nehru Park (May 2017), Nehru Park to Chennai Central (May 2018) and Little Mount to AG-DMS (May 2018). Sunday’s inauguration marks the end of the first phase of construction. It has been a bumpy ride for the ₹14,600-crore  project, which  witnessed many hurdles, such as delays in land acquisition, roads caving in in many areas and cost escalation, with the per km cost soaring to around ₹400 crore against the estimated ₹324 crore.

There was also a major embarrassment when a Russian vendor — Mosmetrostroy — engaged in a tunnelling project left abruptly seeking higher remuneration.

But in the end, Chennai Metro Rail Ltd (CMRL) pulled off one of the most challenging infrastructure projects in the State. The network now has two corridors — from Airport to Washermenpet and from St Thomas Mount to Chennai Central via Koyambedu and Egmore. More importantly, the metro will now connect South Chennai with the North,  a region neglected for decades. It will  also connect with major transport hubs, including Chennai Central, Chennai Egmore and Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT) — allowing passengers to seamlessly switch over to other modes of transport  such as bus, sub-urban or MRTS. Every day, around 50,000 passengers use the metro, and this number is expected to increase substantially, according to an official of the CMRL, which has also taken care of last-mile connectivity till the major stations by providing feeder auto services and also bicycles for hire. He expects those travelling by car and two-wheelers to migrate to the metro.

Soil testing for phase-II

The stage is now set for phase II of the Chennai Metro, covering 52 km (two corridors) for which soil testing is going on across the city. CMRL has already signed a loan agreement with Japan International Cooperation Agency. It has in-principle approval from Asian Development Bank, New Development Bank, European Infrastructure Bank and the World bank.

Phase II covers 119 km over three corridors: Madhavaram to Sholinganallur, Madhavaram to CMBT and Light House to Meenakshi College, with work to  commence on the first two corridors, covering 52 km.

Modi also laid the foundation stone for the ₹2,467 crore modernisation of the Chennai International Airport (phase-II) and for a new Integrated Terminal Building at Tiruchirapalli International airport, costing ₹951.28 crore. He also dedicated the BPCL Ennore Coastal Installation and a new crude oil pipeline from Chennai port to CPCL Manali Refinery to the nation.