Chennai’s Merry-Go-Round

As the Chennai metropolitan agglomerate gets ready to welcome its first Circular Railway, will this be the longest such circular train in comparison to the shortest distance between the two points? This means that Chennai can get a proper Circular Railway EMU service starting from Chennai Beach and ending at Chennai Central – a distance of just about 3 kilometres – by traversing almost 200 kilometres!

The Issue

Arakkonam is an important junction right from the MSMR (Madras and Southern Maharatta Railway) days, as is Chengalpattu from the SIR (South Indian Railway) days. The former is a gateway to Bengaluru, Mumbai, Coimbatore, etc., while the latter leads us further south to Thanjavur, Trichy, Madurai, Rameswaram and Kanniyakumari.

These two lines were linked by an agreement between the two Railways long ago – that is how Arakkonam got is railway code – AJJ, meaning Arakkonam Joint Junction. Regular trains were operated between Chengalpattu and Arakkonam via Kancheepuram and Tirumalpur.

After this, time was ripe for the electrification of this line and work was started with much promise. Only that it was stalled when work reached Takkolam, a few kilometres short of Arakkonam. The reason was a defence establishment – they found the overhead equipment like catenaries impeding the flight path. This meant EMUs were operated only between Chennai Beach – Tirumalpur and Chennai Central – Arakkonam, leaving this 9 kilometres unconnected by EMUs, with just two pairs of conventional rakes operated with diesels.

This necessitated a diversion for these trains to enter Arakkonam from the Katpadi side rather than the Chennai side. The distance from Chengalpattu to Arakkonam increased, as a result. The Ministry of Defence compensated the Railways for the increased cost, and works gathered pace around the start of 2018. This was inspected by the Commissioner of Railway Safety recently and officials confirm that the line has received clearance. Work to remodel the Arakkonam yard remains and SR are awaiting the Railway Board’s for clearance for a line block to carry out this linkage.

Officials are busy working out the time tables for this train, and it is speculated Chennai Beach and Chennai Central will each get one originating service to the other station. “This will be a great boon to us,” beamed a regular train user who had to get all the way to Chennai Central to catch an EMU to Vandalur. “I can now get off at Arakkonam and take a train to Vandalur directly – only hope that Railways provide connections to major long-distance trains halting at Arakkonam,” he added.

Who will Benefit

In fact, Southern Railway will be doing a great favour to the commuters if they extend more Chengalpattu service to Arakkonam and vice versa. This will at least help commuters connect to other EMUs and save on travel time and cost. At least the seven trains that terminate at Tirumalpur should be extended to Arakkonam and a few services terminating at Arakkonam can be extended to Kanchipuram.

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About the Author: Sridhar Joshi


  1. Will be a boon for passengers bound for areas like Mahindra City and Oragadam. Additionally, Kanchipuram gets feeder service for mainline trains at Arakkonam.

  2. Instead of complete circular trains, chengalpattu – Arakkonam – Central as well as Arakkonam – Chengalpattu – Beach can be operated. This will be more successful. This should run on Fast Lanes in tambaram – egmore (hoping SR restore fast local)

  3. I remember, having done a circular travel from MS to TBM – CGL and then towards AJJ, and then, to MAS a decade back. At that time of course, from CGL it was by the PDY – TPTY passenger as the EMU services were curtailed upto Tirumalpur from MS… After lot of hitches, this project of linking AJJ- Tirumalpur – CGL to the Sub urban network has seen the light of the day.. Hope SR operates, trains to cater to the needs of the local commuters.. Kudos SR.. Better late than never

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