For Chennai, heavily dependent on private vehicles, Metro Rail will be a game-changer. The future of transportation lies in efficient public transport. \u201cCongestion on the roads is largely due to two-wheelers and cars. My challenge is to attract these commuters to use the public transportation system. These commuters do not prefer bus transport as they do not find it comfortable. We work to attract them to the Metro Rail. Today in Koyambedu, Thriumangalam and Alandur metro stations, the kind of four and two-wheelers parked will give an idea of this - We are expanding the parking space in Koyambedu!\u201d said Pankaj Kumar Bansal, Managing Director, Chennai Metro Rail Ltd. And a pickup from home \u201cPhase 1 of CMRL is 45 km and of which 35 km is operational with 55,000 commuters per day. The balance 10 km connecting Washermanpet will open in a couple of months and that will make a big difference: this completed network is expected to increase the number of commuters to 1.5 lakh. When the 500 meter link between Velachery and St. Thomas Mount is completed in the MRTS, an additional 50,000 passengers in each of the lines is expected. With these, our commuters will increase to 2 lakh per day! \u201cOnce we complete the new lines to take total Metro length to 173 km, increase frequency and number of coaches, our system will touch the maximum capacity of 7.5 lakh commuters per day! We will achieve this by 2025,\u201d said Bansal. The last mile connectivity has been an issue in our transportation system. CMRL has been addressing this issue with feeder services: \u201cwhen you get down from the train, the share autos and share cabs catering to a radius of 3 km will transfer you with a flat tariff of Rs 10 for autos and Rs 15 for taxis. This facility is soon to expand to all metro stations. \u201cWe will be introducing a new service, similar to Ola and Uber, in March. In this, once you enter your pick up and destination spots in the CMRL app, a vehicle will pick you and drop you at the nearest station. Once you deboard from the train, a vehicle will be waiting to drop you at your destination!\u201d said Bansal and pointed out that the CMRL card will be sufficient for paying all these fares. Re-engineering saving half the costs! \u201cWe have learned a lot from our Phase 1 and done a lot of re-engineering for our Phase 2 plan. My earlier expenditure as per DPR was supposed to be Rs 12,000 crore for land acquisition; but now this will reduce by 50 per cent,\u201d remarked Bansal and explained how it will be achieved. \u201cCost of construction for an underground station is Rs 250 crore. A 6 coach train\u2019s length is 140 m, but the length of the underground station in Phase 1 was 240 m. A lot of space that was previously occupied by air conditioning, tunnel ventilation and other utilities, have now been combined and the length of the stations have been optimised to 145 m. This has brought down the cost to Rs 150 crore per station! \u201cCMRL is uniquely addressing the land acquisition issue. Earlier we were acquiring the land and giving a narrow access to the owner. The CMRL structure is either up or below the ground and is very minimal on the ground. CMRL is going for a different MoU with the landowner. This MoU allows us to use the land during construction and return the land after completion. The owner regains the land with its full frontage and much added value,\u201d said Bansal. Now you understand the how of 50 per cent saving on land acquisitions. Looking ahead... There has always been the grouse of fares being high and the demand for subsidising the Metro Rail fare. Bansal draws lessons from the past MTC bus experience: \u201conce we start with low uneconomic, subsidised fares, we cannot return to changing it on a cost-plus basis. It will impact on effective maintenance, upgradation and replacement. Also remember the huge capital investments involved and the comfort and luxury provided,\u201d said Bansal. \u201cWe are doing a comprehensive DPR for a full mobility system of the city. This will cover the present bus system, non-motorised transport and other motorised transport like feeder transport. Chennai will have the best transportation system in the nation which will be sustainable and also help repay its loans,\u201d said the eloquent Metro Rail MD with passion.