The temple city has a population of about 15 lakh and its area touches a circumference of 50-odd km

How about taking a metro ride from the airport to MGR Integrated Bus Stand? This may sound like wild imagination, but industrialists in the city call it futuristic vision.

A metro rail connectivity is the need of the hour and inevitable for the burgeoning city, they say. Madurai, in the next five years, will explode with traffic congestion and growing vehicular population and metro train will be the only viable solution to the problem, they add.

For hassle-free commute

“A metro rail network will be a boon to the city and its people, as commuting is a big challenge. The buses are quite insufficient, especially from suburban pockets and the outskirts,” says R. Rajkumar, working at the IT park in Ilanthaikulam on Pandikoil Road.

He commutes everyday from Tirumangalam, about 30 km away, and sometimes has to change two buses and shell out at least ₹40 for a single way.

Another young professional, B. Prakash, working at Kappalur industrial estate, spends close to two hours travelling from his home in Melur on a daily basis. “I travel for about 40 km single way and spend a lot on fuel. As rents are high inside the city limits, I am left with no option but to travel long distance,” he says.

Regular commuters opine that ideally a metro network in a city such as Madurai should connect pockets around the main city such as Tirupuvanam, Tirumangalam, Melur and Nagamalai Pudukottai, apart from connecting bus stations and railway junction to the airport.

Qualifies for facility

“Madurai has a sizeable population of young professionals and office goers who commute from one part of the city to the other. If the purpose of metro rail is to ease congestion, then Madurai surely should be considered as traffic jam is the order of the day here,” says N. Jegatheesan, president of Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Apart from better and faster connectivity, a metro rail transport system will also pave way further industrial growth, give impetus to the overall development of the region and create job opportunities.”

He adds that Madurai qualifies for a metro rail network as the population is well about 15 lakh and the city expanse has touched a circumference of 50-odd km. “The Central government has proposed to invest ₹105 lakh crore for infrastructure development in the next five years. A list of 25 cities across the country will be selected for metro rail connectivity. Political leaders from the region should take efforts to bring the city in that list,” he says.

“Any transport facility will enhance industrial growth. There is no doubt that metro rail network will give an impetus to business,” says M. S. Sampath, secretary of MADITSSIA, who runs a food processing unit at SIDCO industrial estate in Pudur. “A majority of my staff come from Melur and in order to get them for work on time, we have arranged for a staff bus. A metro connectivity shall ease such problems.”

However, Nagaraj Krishnan, Chairman of Confederation of Indian Industry, feels that Madurai still has a long way to go before qualifying for a metro rail network. “Whether people of the city will patronise metro rail, given the high costs, remains a question. More number of flyovers and bridges should ease transport issues for now,” he says.

Political push needed

Industrialists and business segment in the city complain that Madurai gets neglected by successive governments in development. Despite being the central nodal point for over 13 districts in the south and south central region of the State, the city has hardly seen any infrastructure facilities on par with other cities such as Chennai, Coimbatore and Tiruchi.

They say that a political push is needed to bring metro rail to Madurai.

“Despite the State cabinet having many ministers from the southern region, there is no push to promote Madurai. Major facilities and projects always get diverted towards other cities. Even AIIMS project came to Madurai only after a lot of efforts and petitions in the court,” says an activist.

Madurai MP Su. Venkatesan vouches to bat for the facility in Parliament. “It is in places like Madurai, where the density of population is higher, that a metro rail connectivity is needed. I visited a rail expo in Delhi recently, where the prototype of a low cost metro rail project was on display. So, a metro rail connectivity need not necessarily be associated with the elite. It is a transport mode meant for the masses,” he says.

“The patronage will come with time but there is a need to think ahead of time. That way, metro rail connectivity is something necessary for a growing burgeoning city like Madurai and I will raise the demand in Parliament. I have also mentioned it in the election manifesto,” he adds.

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