Saturday, August 9, 2008

MRTS the ghost

Mass Rapid Transport System. MRTS.

Well after years and years of inching forward, something seems to have materialised for the Southern Railways. And yes, they have indeed been able to come up with a SYSTEM. And a TRANSPORT SYSTEM it is. And with effective travel time from Velachery to Mylapore being 18-20 mins, the system seems to be fairly RAPID. But is it really a MASS RTS? No way. Not yet.

And there are a number of reasons for this, ranging from non cooperation between administrative bodies to poor pace of execution of the project and so on. And I'm not going to point fingers at any of the organizations involved in the project. Cos enough has been written and spoken about in that manner.

The idea of developing such kind of an infrastructure has always attracted me, and I will definitely express my appreciation to the Railway authorities for coming up with such an idea of establishing alternative connectivity among the city's important localities in addition to the bus network. So I believe that this is a very good concept. But it is common knowledge that even the best of the product ideas or concepts fail to catch the fancy of the common man due to improper positioning and branding in the market. Same is the case with MRTS. For the system to be able to truly achieve MASS admiration, a little more has to be done for it to sell like hot cakes.


I've been travelling regularly between Velchary and Tirumailai for the past one week, and here are some of my observations:

1. The train services in themselves are good in themselves, with the frequency of services being 10min intervals from 7.30 to 10.00 in the morning and from 5 to 7.45 in the evening between trains, and 15-20 min gap during the other hours of the day.

2. The Railways have installed Automatic Ticket Vending Machines which work with smart cards, a really useful feature for a regular traveller. A lot of people haven't taken to the smart cards though.

3. Three OMR road stations: Thiruvanmiyur, Indra Nagar and Kasturibai Nagar are incomplete to the extent that you have iron girders sticking out and sand piles lying around even on the platform.

4. The three OMR road stations are not actually physically connected to their respective localities at all. Significant among these is the Indira Nagar Station which is separated from Indira Nagar by the canal. People from this area have to reach the station either through thiruvanmiyur/kasturibai nagar or through a small ultra narrow bridge located about half km away.

5. There are two to three Foot over bridges on the OMR, between Madhya Kailash and Tidel Park which are located almost corresponding to each of the three stations. Yet, the F-O-Bs are not connected to the stations. A passenger wanting to go to the other side has to climb down all the way from the station, walk up to the F-O-B and again climb up to go across.

6. The thiruvanmiyur station has (you wont believe it) two mezzanines in the ground floor itself, with not even the railway staff going around there. In the night, the station could as well seem like a 'Bhoot Bungalow'.

As a concept, this has not sold very well with the mass now. The contribution of a concept/product depends more on the packaging and positioning of the product than the product itself. In simple words, Glitter and Gimmicks are the most powerful contributors to the success of a new idea.

For a train service, a few of the "oomph" factors would be the ambience of the train, ambience of the station, proximity to the hub of the locality, connectivity with other forms of mass transport. Mass Public appeal is definitely a factor of these things. The Railways should probably look at it from these points of view. Otherwise, they will be running a near flop show inspite of having such a potentially popular service in hand.