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Chennai Smart City project – The road ahead

Chennai Smart City project

The country’s third and the world’s eighth most densely populated city, Chennai is among 20 cities selected under the Government of India’s ambitious Chennai Smart City project. Over the next five years, it will receive grants that will help tackle a slew of urban problems such as traffic (by creating a network of pedestrian and cycle-friendly streets, cycle-sharing for last-mile connectivity, implementing Smart parking management system on-street and off-street and Smart metering), water supply and drainage.

Chennai Metro

With 3.7 million units of vehicles on around 1,800 km of roads, Chennai has the highest vehicle density in the country: 2,093 vehicles/km of road. Despite having a diverse transportation network including buses, suburban trains and the Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) with overhead railways, only 50 percent of Chennai’s people use public transport. That is expected to change, however, with the ambitious Chennai Metro Rail project that is, at present, running on a stretch of ten km from Koyambedu, the seat of the Intercity Bus Terminus, to Alandur. The Metro Rail was the city’s saviour during the November-December 2015 floods, when thousands used it to reach homes and authorities extended services till late in the night.

Though racked with delays, the first phase of the Metro Rail was supposed to end by 2015 but will now be completed only by 2017.
The city looks forward to using the state-of-the-art railway stations, Smart Card tickets and quaint blue-coloured rakes. Being built at a cost of `14,600 crore (US $2.2 billion approximately),
Phase I of the Metro covers 45 km through two corridors. The first extends from Washermanpet in North Chennai to the Chennai Airport, the third busiest airport in the country. It covers a distance of 23.1 km and connects Mannadi, High Court, LIC, Thousand Lights, Gemini, Teynampet, Saidapet, Little Mount, Guindy, Alandur and Meenambakkam. The second corridor runs west, with a terminus at Alandur. This corridor will connect the railhead at Chennai Central Station to St.Thomas Mount and will run through Egmore, Nehru Park, Kilpauk, Anna Nagar, Koyambedu, CMBT, Arumbakkam, Vadapalani, KK Nagar and Alandur, covering a distance of 22 km. The two corridors will connect in the north at Chennai Fort.

Improved feeder services to the Metro to dissuade people from bringing their private vehicles to park at the station, better integration with the MRTS railway stations and better pedestrian subways with commercial space are planned to improve the Metro experience as well as ease the traffic congestion in the city. Phase II of the Metro with three more corridors, from Madhavaram to Siruseri, Nerkundram to Light House and Madhavaram to Perumbakkam, will truly bring public transport to the Chennaiite’s doorstep.

Easing the gridlock

The Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) initiated the Outer Ring Road (ORR) project in 2010, the first phase of which was completed and commissioned in 2014. Covering a distance of 29.65 km, Phase I includes a bypass which prevents heavy vehicles from entering the city. The `1,400 crore (US $210 million approximately) ORR is a 62.3 km project to be built in two phases around the Chennai Metropolitan Area, connecting the Grand Southern Trunk (GST) Road or National Highway (NH) 45 from Vandalur to the Tiruvottiyur Ponneri Pancheti (TPP) Road in Minjur.

The first phase, built at a cost of `1,081 crore (US $162.1 million approximately), connecting national highways NH 4, NH 45 and NH 205, ensured that vehicles bound to Mumbai, Pune or Bengaluru, or the interiors of Tamil Nadu and towards Andhra Pradesh, were able to circumvent the city to their destinations. With 70 percent of Phase II connecting Nemilicherry on NH 205 to Minjur already constructed, the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

Another ambitious plan to improve public transport by weaning users away from cars and to complement the Metro is the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), proposed along seven corridors in the city.

With funds recently sanctioned by the Tamil Nadu Infrastructure Development Board (TNIDB) for project feasibility study, the city could see dedicated bus lanes, high quality stations and coaches, high speed buses and stepless boarding stretching through Rajiv Gandhi Salai (Old Mahabalipuram Road or OMR), Sardar Patel Road, GST Road in South Chennai and Koyambedu, Ambattur, Poonamalee and Madhavaram in West Chennai, in the future.

Plans are under discussion to provide dedicated cycling tracks on roads for a city that records 0.75 lakh cycle trips a day as against 0.19 lakh car trips, as a 2008 study by Wilbur Smith Associates showed. Plans on paper include bicycle tracks along the East Coast Road and on the tracks along the Cooum River.
Industrial clusters OneHub Chennai is billed as a next generation industrial township.

Located on 1,500 acres on OMR, it is meant to boost the growth of Japanese and other international businesses, and create employment for more than 2,00,000 people. The project has come up through an MoU between the Tamil Nadu Industries Department, a leading business space provider, Ascendas and a Japanese consortium comprising Mizuho Corporate Bank and programme management contractor and investment partner, JGC Corporation.

The government is planning to develop a state-of-the-art IT-ITES SEZ at Taramani on 26.64 acres of land, while another is planned at Kanagam village in Mambalam-Guindy taluka. The SEZ will have an Integrated International Convention Centre with the capacity to seat 1,500 delegates. The State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT) is also planning to develop the Chennai-
Ranipet region, with expansion in the existing industrial complexes of Oragadam and Irungattukottai in Sriperumpudur. A biopark with an additional lab space of 6.13 lakh sq ft for biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, nanotechnology, at a cost of `150 crore (US $22.5 million approximately), is planned for Taramani.

Vertical mantra

The growing demand for housing in the expanding metropolis has seen high-rises replace genteel old bungalows. Even in the new townships and residential complexes, the preference is for multistoreyed buildings, though plots for individual bungalows are also in demand. The Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB), along with the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), is responsible for the construction and development of housing for the lower and middle income groups of society. Following the floods in the city, the state government has taken up the task of resettling more than 10,000 slum-dwellers living on the affected Adyar river banks, in housing tenements in Okkiam Thoraipakkam and Perumbakkam on the OMR.