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 Tamil Nadu . India

Chennai Metro Map © UrbanRail.Net


Chennai, formerly called Madras, is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu in southeastern India. The city has some 5 million inhabitants (7.5 mill. in metropolitan area).

Chennai has quite a robust urban rail network based on three different systems. The backbone of this network is Southern Railways (SR) suburban network of 3 lines which has attempted to generate a genuine corporate-urban rail atmosphere; the single line MRTS which, although operated by SR, used to be segregated from other suburban services, but is now offers through trains to other lines; and finally, the new Chennai Metro. Together there are 240km of rail service within the city boundaries, hosting 105 stations.


 Metro Rail (CMRL)

Chennai is building a 2-line metro network. Phase-1 of the 'Chennai Metro Rail Project' consists of two corridors with a combined length of 45 km. Corridor-I, with a length of 23.1 km (14.3 km underground and 8.8 km elevated), will run from Washermanpet to the Airport via Anna Salai (Blue Line). Corridor-II, with a length of 22 km (9.7 km underground and 12.3 km elevated), will run from Chennai Central to St. Thomas Mount via Koyambedu (Green Line). The portions of Corridor-I from Washermanpet to Saidapet on Anna Salai, and Corridor-II on Periyar EVR Salai and Anna Nagar 2nd Avenue, will be underground and the remainder elevated. Construction on the elevated section on Corridor-II between Thirumangalam and Ashok Nagar began in June 2009. The first 10 km elevated segment of the Green Line opened on 29 June 2015, the first 8.6 km section of the Blue Line on 21 Sept 2016.

Metro History:
29 June 2015:
Koyambedu - Alandur (10 km)
21 Sept 2016: Little Mount - Chennai International Airport (8.6 km)
14 Oct 2016: Alandur - St. Thomas Mount (1.3 km)
14 May 2017: Koyambedu - Nehru Park (8 km)

For details click here (Wikipedia)

Chennai Metro Chennai Metro Chennai Metro Chennai Metro Chennai Metro Chennai Metro Chennai Metro

Craig Moore reports from Chennai in Feb 2016:

The Chennai Metro opened in 2015 and is a very stylish edition to the Indian metro family. Significant parts of the system are under construction, and the only section currently open is the 10km elevated north-south stretch in the west of the city between Koyambedu and Alandur. This stretch has 7 stations. Because of its elevated nature the line is prominent in the cityscape and the stations are huge. The entrance hall offers ticket counters, ticket machines and a ‘customer office’, although there is no hard copy information or maps available. There is, however, a smart information board with, I would proffer, the most stylish rail map on the sub-continent. This shows the full metro network, and MRTS/suburban lines with interchange. The only timetable information available is on television screens offering ‘next train’ times. Entrance to the system is via electronic gates where the small blue token is scanned on entry. Escalators or stairs lead you to the platform level which can host 6-car sets, although only 4-car sets are used at the moment. The platform has smart signage and audio/electronic ‘next train’ information. The platform areas are light and airy due to high canopied roofing. All stations have side platforms and each platform employs a lady with whistle to ensure people stay behind the tactile yellow line and also to assist in train departure. The stations are very clean and well kept, although this is likely due to the newness of the system. The line uses 1435 gauge and has overhead catenary power supply.

Current services run at a base headway of 15mins between 0500 and midnight, with three sets in service at any one time. At Alandur there is a quick turnaround of 1min, whist at Koyambedu the train stands for 14mins. The 4-car Alstom stock is air-conditioned, clean and bright with a mainly white interior and blue side seating. There is audio and electronic information in English, Tamil, and Hindi (in that order) and a smart, future-proofed strip map showing the completed system, interchange with suburban rail/MRTS and the Indian roundel icon. The total journey time is 17mins and the ride is very smooth. Being elevated the line does undulate at times but at most points is 12m above the ground, offering some interesting views of western Chennai. The dwell time is short, although in most cases there were few passengers to alight or exit. At the moment this is far from well patronised. Alandur Station has two levels of platforms as it will be the junction for the lines to the airport and St Thomas Mount and the infrastructure around the station and at St Thomas Mount looks very impressive. Further north, the journey provides access to the large shopping mall at Vadapalani and the equally sized CMBT bus station. At Koyambedu, flying junctions to the west provide access to the large shedding facilities and the Metro Operations Centre.

The current patronage is low, primarily because the line does not connect with other rail provision at the moment. This isolation is compounded by the very high fares. These are distance-based (10-40 rupee). The 10km journey along the line costs 40 Rupee (€0.53). This may seem inexpensive, but the suburban rail (see below) costs just 5 Rupees (€0.07) for 20km of service. Given the location, trip generating points and fare level, this is a mode for the more wealthy in Indian society.

This system is stylish and it will be a great asset to Chennai once completed, with a mix of elevated, underground and grade sections, a link to the airport and good interchange with the other urban rail services in the city. Interestingly, the website advertises a day ticket but this was not available at machines or when I enquired at the ticket office - although this will only be of value once the Metro is completed.

 Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS)

The first phase of the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) from Beach to Thirumayilai opened on 19 Oct. 1997. This is a 9 km long surface line with 8 stations and runs mostly along the Buckingham Canal. 6 km (5 stations) of the line are elevated. After two extensions the MRTS reached Velachery in Nov 2007, bringing the total length of the line to 19.5 km.

The MRTS is not a proper metro line, but part of Chennai's well-patronized suburban rail network (1676mm broad gauge), which includes several other lines:

a. Beach to Tambaram (30km, 18 stations): This section is parallel to but completely separate from the long-distance tracks of Indian Railways. The Trisulam station on this line is 100m from the Chennai International Airport terminal. This line first opened as an electrified suburban rail line in 1930 (originally 1000 mm gauge).

b. Chennai Central to Pattabiram (25km, 15 stations) This section is again parallel to but completely separate from long-distance tracks. Services run for a further 34km (14 stations) on this line on tracks shared with long-distance tracks. Services first began on this line in 1985. A separate pair of tracks was added from Pattabiram to Tiruvallur (17km, 5 stations) on 19 Sept 2004.

c. Chennai Central - Gummidipundi (48km, 16 stations) - This line currently shares tracks with long-distance trains but there are plans to build exclusive tracks in the future. Services have been running on this line since 1985.

MRTS History:
01 Nov 1995 - Chennai Beach - Chepauk
19 Oct 1997 - Chepauk - Tirumayilai
26 Jan 2004 - Tirumayilai - Thiruvanmiyur
19 Nov 2007 - Tiruvanmiyur - Velachery


Chennai MRTS Chennai MRTS

Craig Moore reports from Chennai in Feb 2016:

I feel the MRTS is a good example of transport planners and government officials getting things very wrong, despite their best intentions. Theoretically, the development of the MRTS ticked all the boxes (a much needed north-south link in the city centre, major trip generation points (e.g. the Cricket Ground), expansion of the line to new IT industrial areas, and elevation to minimise forced land acquisition), yet in practice, it has not succeeded. The line runs from Chennai Beach, north of the city centre, in a south westerly direction to Velachery for 19.3km (18 stations) with a totally journey time of 47mins. The first 2.7km of the line are at grade and run parallel to the existing metre-gauge Chennai suburban South Line. Here the trains crawl at a very slow pace. After Park Town the line becomes elevated and the speed increases as trains cross the Choovam River to the principal and substantial stations of Chintadripet and Chepauk, from where there are lovely views of Chennai Beach and the Bay of Bengal beyond. For the most part, the line runs 14m above and alongside the rather decrepit Buckingham Canal. Beyond Thirumayilai the line turns westward and it is only before the southern terminus of Velachery that the line returns to grade. From here an elevated extension is in construction to St Thomas Mount.

The centrally located grade stations are very basic and of typical Indian style, whilst the elevated stations must be some of the most overbuilt urban rail monoliths in existence. There is no danger of not being aware of the MRTS, not because of any street signage, but because of the scale and ugliness of the infrastructure. Station entrances are tucked away at the sides of the stations and not near the main road junctions crossed by the station. These more appropriate entrances have been closed for security reasons. The ground floor is dark, with numerous broad pillars supporting the structure, located across the vast space. At ground level there is a small ticket office hidden in the darkness, and stair or rusted escalator access to an intermediate floor (which is home to a large stray dog population, litter and crumbling concrete). Further stairs provide access to the platform level. The platforms themselves (all side platforms) are long and empty with defective next train indicators and a small schedule poster hidden well down the platform (and not accurate). The platforms are topped by huge canopied roofs of different styles. Each station has the wonderful Indian roundel, but no useful information or system maps. The overall footprint of stations is massive and these huge spaces could be used by vendors etc. but there is simply nothing but empty cavernous unkemptness. Added to this is the weathered feel of the stations. They are very decayed and even the recently renovated stations at Chintadripet and Chepauk don’t look that smart.

Services run from 0430 to 2300 with a base headway of 15/20mins. Services use locally produced ICF 9 car sets (5+4). There are first-class and women-only carriages, although first class is used by anyone. The stock is very tatty and uses airline seating, although this is segmented into two compartments within each carriage, split by a barriered dead space, and so you cannot walk through an entire carriage. The line uses Indian broad gauge (1676) and trains use overhead power supply. Tickets cost 5 Rupee (€0.07) for a single journey on the MRTS. Tickets are in paper form, printed out on an individual basis with departure and arrival station. However, this is a completely open system and there are no barriers or ticket checks and most people just seem to hop on and hop off without tickets. The trains have audio and electronic announcements on the trains in Hindi, Tamil and English (the audio is difficult to hear over the noise of the ceiling fans in the carriages and the fact that doors are permanently open).

This was a line I was looking forward to and, in truth, I was a little disappointed. The relatively long headways and lack of discrete branding undermines the notion that this is a genuine urban rail line, and it is certainly more suburban rail than metro. The lack of service intensity is one of the reasons why the MRTS has not delivered the patronage originally hoped for, and you realise this once you ride the characterful and busy Chennai Suburban Rail system.

Unlike many other cities on the sub-continent, SR have made a genuine attempt to create a brand for Chennai’s suburban rail network. The network has 3 lines and stretches for 585km, although 211km (80 stations) exist within the city/urban area. Services operate from 0400 to midnight and run on 1000 (south line) and 1676 mm (west/north lines) gauges and use similar stock to the MRTS, with overhead power supply. The south line to Tambaran is the most intensive of the three lines with average 10min frequencies outside of peak (although times are irregular). The lines are double-tracked, with regional and long-distance services on parallel lines, utilising the same stations, but with shorter platforms, separate from the suburban service platforms. The suburban rail patronage is very high, trains are crowded with many passengers clinging to the outside around the doors, and the central stations, along with the main suburban stations, have a real buzz. Automatic ticket machines are available and show an interesting schematic map, but most passengers appear to queue at the ticket offices, as has been tradition. Fares are distance-based and cost between 5 and 20 rupees. (20 rupees (€0.26) will get you 100km!!). Stations are all at grade and are very basic but have the wonderful roundel as well as huge yellow and black station signs. St. Thomas Mount will become a transport hub once all construction is completed and in addition to the suburban services, there will be MRTS and Metro services. Both of these will have physical connection to the current station but will be elevated. It will be an interesting area to visit in the next few years, as will the city as a whole, as the current construction of urban rail across the city moves toward completion. A nice city, with a wonderful rail environment, which will only improve in coming years.


The first MRTS line is being extended south by 5 km from Velachery to St. Thomas Mount, which is a major station on the Chennai Beach to Tambaram suburban line.

For further suburban rail projects click here


Southern Railways - MRTS Operator

Chennai MRTS at Wikipedia

Chennai Suburban Railway at Wikipedia

Chennai Metro Rail Ltd

Chennai Metro at Wikipedia

Map showing suburban and mass transit lines provided by Hannes Neugebauer

Chennai Metro Projects (TheMetroRailGuy)



Chennai MRTS Chennai MRTS Chennai MRTS Chennai MRTS Chennai MRTS Chennai MRTS Chennai MRTS Chennai MRTS Chennai MRTS Chennai MRTS

Chepauk © Sridhar Narayanan Chintadripte © Sridhar Narayanan Chintadripte © Sridhar Narayanan Light House © Sridhar Narayanan Tirumayilai © Sridhar Narayanan

Photos © Sridhar Narayanan

Left: Chintadripet - Right: Light House

Thanks to Sridhar Narayanan!

2004 © UrbanRail.Net by Robert Schwandl.

Chennai Metro Line Diagram (2016 © C. Moore):

Chennai metro line diagram inside trains