After the closure of level crossings, Pattabhiram and Thiruninravur residents are left without paths to reach the railway platforms
To prevent accidents, the Chennai division of Southern Railway eliminated unmanned level crossings two years ago.
Based on a policy of the Railway Board to improve passenger safety and speed up travel, Southern Railway removed more than 300 unmanned level crossings in all its six divisions by constructing subways, posting personnel, diverting traffic and closing the gates. However, in some western areas of the Chennai Division, residents and commuters are facing a severe hardship due to poor planning in the construction of foot over bridges and rail over bridges.
Residents and commuters of Pattabhiram and Thiruninravur are inconvenienced by the closure of the level crossings, without any facility created for reaching the platforms and accessing the areas on either side of the stations. Thousands of residents in the western suburbs depend on suburban trains, rather than buses, to reach their offices in the city. They rue the poor facilities to reach the stations.
K.S. Gopalakrishnan, a resident of Vallalar Nagar, located on the southern side of the Pattabhiram station, says residents and commuters who used to pass through the level crossing no. 10 have been left in the lurch as it was closed after the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The railways have installed a foot over bridge. But climbing it is arduous and senior citizens are unable to use it, he says.
Moreover, the foot over bridge is not linked to platforms, including the Pattabhiram siding platform. Hence, commuters are forced to walk on the track.
Pedestrians and commuters do not use the rail over bridge, built by the State government adjacent to the station because it has over 100 steps and has not been linked to the station.
The residents of Thiruninravur, where the rail track cuts through the suburb, air the same grievance.
S. Murugaian, secretary, Thiruninravur Rail Passengers Welfare Association, says the station is one of the most important in the western section. Thousands of residents use it to go to the city and Thiruvallur. While a number of government offices and temples are located to the south of the station, Chennai-Tiruvallur High Road is located to the north.
With the level crossing closed, the residents have been demanding a subway, similar to the one built at the Nemilichery station. The association has also made representations to the railways as well as the State government, but a subway is yet to materialise.
Commuters and activists say the western suburbs have been denied amenities, such as lifts and escalators, that have been provided at stations in the southern suburbs.
A senior official of Southern Railway said it was not feasible to commission a mini-subway at Thiruninravur or Pattabhiram as in Nemilichery because the Nemilichery station has the entry and exit on one side.
He said escalators had been commissioned at Tiruvallur. Based on the footfalls, a decision would be taken to build escalators at other stations too, he said.