Coimbatore sweats as politicos debate Metro vs Mono rail

With population consistently growing at 10%, Coimbatore is bursting at its seams. With the villages in the outskirts becoming part of the city and more and more people coming into the city for work, transport facilities are getting overstretched. The rise in the number of vehicles in the city is a reflection of the lack of sufficient public transport facilities as much as it is about rising incomes.

Inner city areas are feeling the heat as major traffic junctions in the city including Athupalam, Ukkadam, Gandhipuram, Ganapathy, Thudiyalur, Singanallur, Peelemedu and Ramanathapuram are crowded throughout the day. Absence of enough flyovers and grade separators add to the crowding of vehicles. With few short distance trains available, buses on the arterial routes are jam-packed. Autos and taxis are expensive forcing commuters to purchase two-wheelers and cars.

So, what's the way out? "It is high time to think of mass transit systems. If the government builds metro rail or mono rail, affordable housing could come up in the suburbs and people could stay there and commute to work,'' says industrialist Ravi Sam.

On its part, the city Corporation has been discussing mass transit systems for a while. But petty party politics has kept the debate about which mass system to be built unresolved. While the DMK-Congress regime in corporation mooted metro rail, the current AIADMK-led council prefers mono rail. "We feel mono rail is the better option,'' says S Sivarasu, commissioner in- charge of the Corporation. "As per the technical advice given to the chief minister, metro rail is not a feasible option for Coimbatore. Compared to the metro rail, the mono rail is cheaper and land requirement is far less," said a senior AIADMK leader, who didn't want to be named.

With India's first mono rail project in Mumbai doing trial runs, there is hope among city residents that the state government would soon announce a mono rail project for Coimbatore. The state government had promised a monorail network in the city soon after it won office last year. The Union urban development ministry has also included Coimbatore as one of the tier-two cities eligible for mass public transport systems like a metro. "We should not waste any more time. There is massive traffic congestion in the city and an effective alternative mode of transport like monorail has to be introduced. It will help reduce the vehicular congestion and bring down pollution," says R R Balasundharam, president, Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Coimbatore.

Recently, Residents Awareness Association of Coimbatore (RAAC), a citizen's initiative, organized a presentation for mayor S M Velusamy and the then Corporation commissioner T K Ponnusamy on the need for a mass public transport system. The presentation drew from the Kozhikode monorail proposal. "The presentation was an attempt to get the government to speed up the process," says R Raveendran, secretary, RAAC. Three separate monorail networks were suggested, two circular routes in the northern and southern parts of the city, and a dual linear line connecting the eastern and western parts. The northern route was designed from Gandhipuram via Ganapathy, Sivananda Colony, Saibaba Colony, R S Puram, Town Hall, Railway Station and Gandhipuram. The southern route ran from Podanur via Trichy Road, Sungam, Red Fields, Race Course, Railway Station, Ukkadam and returned to Podanur. A linear line was also proposed from Chinniampalayam, Airport, CODISSIA, PSG Tech, Lakshmi Mill Junction, Gandhipuram, North Coimbatore, Cowley Brown Road and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.

Some years ago, the corporation also conducted a feasibility study for a Bus Rapid Transport System. The study by Wilbur Smith Associates proposed a BRTS corridor starting from Avinashi Road and ending at Mettupalayam Road. Of the 17.6-km long corridor, 6.87 km was to be an elevated pathway with three elevated bus stops and 14 bus stops on the ground. But the project did not take off.

Meanwhile, traffic experts say the government must speed up implementation of the much-delayed Western Bypass linking Palakkad road with Mettupalayam Road and Eastern Bypass linking Kangayampalayam in Avinashi Road with Mettupalayam road via Saravanampatty in Sathyamangalam Road. "These can significantly reduce traffic within the city," they point out.

Source : TOI

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