Dark, dirty… or simply closed! How are these Chennai subways helping pedestrians?

Wall Tax Road. Poonamallee Road. Anna Salai. Built to make it easier for the walking population to cross major thoroughfares, the subways at these locations are either in sorry condition or closed for months due to construction.

Walk past the pedestrian subway adjoining Chennai Central station on Wall Tax Road and you won’t be able to avoid the strong, pungent odor of urine. It appears pedestrians come here to relieve themselves more often than they use the subway to cross the road, according to the subway cleaning staff! 
“It’s mostly the autowallahs waiting outside the station who urinate at the entrance of the subway. People only use this subway, when the traffic police stop them from crossing the road by putting up barricades,” said A Kasturi, a government-hired cleaner who also routinely picks up empty liquor bottles from inside the subway.
According to her, homeless people come to the Wall Tax Road subway to drink at night. Some of them rest there in the afternoon, making it unsafe for women to use. 
“Neither do the police stop the autowallahs from soiling the subway walls, nor do they prevent the homeless from occupying it,” she said, adding that apart from the stinking smell, barely three out of the six tube lights work in the evening.

Vendors take up more than half the space. Pic: Sukriti Vats

A relatively cleaner subway in the same area, between Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital and Chennai Central has its own share of troubles. Built to allow pedestrians to easily cross the highly-congested Poonamallee Road, it is now occupied in large part by vendors. 
“The vendors selling fruits and flowers here take up most of the space, turning it into a one-way passage for pedestrians. I don’t know if this is legal or not, but it is highly inconvenient,” said R Rakesh, an engineering student, who takes the subway daily to reach his college.

The issue of vendor encroachment is not a new one. The subway near Chennai Beach station towards George Town seems to be one of the busiest and the dirtiest in the city. The walls are plastered with pamphlets and the ground laden with fruit peels and dead flowers. 

Mohammad Afreez, a resident in the neighbourhood who frequently takes the subway said, “It’s a pathetic state of affairs. I understand that vendors are poor, but then the government should do something about their rehabilitation. Also, the walls here are so dirty and the lights, though functional, are covered with cobwebs. There is a need for some proper cleaning of this place.

While these subways suffer from poor infrastructure facilities, there are many which seem to be perennially closed, forcing the pedestrians to cross some of the busiest and most accident-prone roads in Chennai. 
One of these is Anna Salai, which was once tagged by The Times of India as the deadliest stretch in the city. Three subways along the Anna Salai Road have been closed for months in a bid to connect them with the metro line. 

Upgrades and fixing of issues takes place for many months inconveniencing subway users. Pic: Sukriti Vats

S Ramamurthy who is in his seventies, is a regular visitor to Anna Salai, also known as Mount Road. He complained, “This subway (near Government estate metro station) has been closed for more than three months now. I usually have to cross the road to reach the bus station. For this I have to walk half a kilometre away to the turn at the Government estate and then walk the same distance back.”
Ramamurthy demands some alternative in place to cross roads, when the subways are closed for renovation. “I am an old person. I cannot easily cross the road in heavy traffic. There should be some temporary arrangement made by the government, for instance a traffic personnel should be made available to help pedestrians.”
The Highways Department, which operates about 50 subways in Chennai, recognizes the needs of the public, but it is unable to do anything at the moment. 
R Chandrasekar, Chief Engineer said, “At the most we can get a zebra-crossing drawn on the road for the ease of pedestrians. Though, people need to have patience as the construction work is almost over and the subways at Anna Salai will be opening soon.” He said that the subways were regularly cleaned and the department had not received any complaints regarding their condition.


  1. Anand says:

    persons who are going to maintain the subway is also a human. Should they work under these circumstances like heavy dirt and urine smell. Let the subways be shut for rest of it’s life

  2. Lakshman says:

    Subways on Anna salai near church park and near the anand theatre junction are closed for a very long time now..I just want to know if they are dummy subways (for show) or they will never be reopened or they are waiting for a huge inauguration..
    Can you imagine crossing this stretch by all walks of life is easy…it is life threatening..I too have so many crossing problems…you have to go on the flyover abit to cross this stretch..just imagine…and do the needful for the needy

  3. Jayakumar says:

    Not only subways, you cannot use the steps to get down from the platform of MRTS Mylapore station. It is stinking to the core. During nights it is being used as public toilets.

  4. DK Acharya says:

    Condition of roads need real improvement in most of the places in Chennai

  5. Ranjit Gadgil says:

    Cities that prioritize the convenience and safety of pedestrians should avoid subways – which are meant for the convenience of vehicles, not pedestrians – and create at-grade well-designed junctions for people to be able to cross safely. At-grade well-designed junctions, with traffic signals, ensure that everyone (women, children, the elderly and disabled) can cross safely at all times of the day. Subways and foot overbridges should be considered only in very exceptional circumstances.

  6. Raghav M says:

    Forget subways. Footover bridges in Sterling road, Little Mount, Taramani, Tansi Nagar bus stop, Kandhanchavadi and few more are never been used by public. All of them are in good condition only. Whom we blame for this?

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