The long-awaited promise of an integrated public transport system for the capital city remains on paper even a year after the Tamil Nadu government notifying the Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA).
After the notification, the Chief Urban Planner (Transport) of CMDA was appointed as member secretary of the CUMTA, which will be a single nodal agency for all transport-related issues in the city.
Such is the lack of urgency that the authority has not held even the first meeting though a year after it was formed. “The meeting was scheduled several times in the last one year. But it was cancelled in the last minute because some of the officials were not available,” sources told DT Next.
J Sivasubramanian, manager, transport systems, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) said that the utility of CUMTA would depend on its ability to bring together the multiple agencies that are represented on its board. “As a coordinating body, it can help integrate transport planning and decision making for Chennai as a whole. CUMTA can help give direction to the individual agencies and to the government’s overall transport strategy,” he said.
Apart from physical integration of the different modes of transport, commuters would also like to have fare integration by which they can travel by buying just one ticket. “Fare integration is the objective of the Authority. It should also take over the operation of all modes of public transport in terms of the scheduling operation. When a commuter comes out of the Metro Rail station, a bus, MRTS or suburban train should be available to reach their last-mile destination,” said KP Subramanian, a retired professor of the Department of Transportation Engineering, Anna University.
The wait for CUMTA has been long – over a decade to be precise. It was approved by the State Assembly way back in 2010. However, it took nine years to notify it 2019. “The sudden interest after eight years may be due to the pressure by the World Bank by making the revival of CUMTA as a pre-condition for funding the Chennai City Partnership initiative. But CUMTA remains in a state of slumber even after one year of its notification,” he noted.
Pointing out that the CUMTA was a wonderful medium to facilitate seamless integration of public transport systems to ensure safe and speedy commute, Subramanian said that it remaining defunct has made these different modes in Chennai as standalone facilities.
The hopes of it becomes functional now rest on the next visit by a team from World Bank, during which CUMTA is said to be among the top of the agenda when they discuss Chennai City Partnership, said government sources. “The first meeting of the authority will be convened soon,” sources said.