The Times of India
Chennai was classified a Beta city in the 2010 global ranking index of Globalization and World Cities Research Network. This organisation ranks the cities of the world based on various factors including their economics, connectivity, and cultural influence. Some other cities of the world classified as Beta include Cape Town, Manchester, Seattle and Riyadh. The only other Indian cities ahead of Chennai are Mumbai (Alpha), New Delhi (Alpha -) and Bangalore (Beta +). One of the major criteria that determine growth and influence of a city is connectivity. It was with this view that the planning authorities of the city laid the foundations for a planned network of arterial ring roads in the second masterplan.
With the city's second masterplan now in full force, the focus for Chennai is infrastructure and the creation of the blueprint that will sculpt the metropolitan region. This plan was originally slated for application in 2002 but finally received approval only in 2007. One of the most important projects is the creation of the Outer Ring Road.
The first masterplan resulted in the formation of the 100 ft Road (Jawaharlal Nehru Salai) which was to serve as the outer ring road fringing the city's extremities at that point. While this ushered in significant growth in the western side of the city, the link from Taramani to St Thomas Mount was not completed. This was adopted to become the 35-km Inner Ring Road by the second masterplan and is a key connector between significant corridors of growth. Important highways arise from Chennai leading out radially towards Bangalore, Kolkata, Madurai and Cuddalore, with Chennai being a cardinal point in the nation's Golden Quadrilateral project of highways.
But clearly, the icing on the cake for infrastructure is the creation of the Outer Ring Road (ORR) in Chennai. "The ORR will be a multi-model transport corridor, 62km in length and it will connect the fringes of the city," states one of the Chief Planners at CMDA (Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority), “We have set aside 400 ft for development and planned a six-lane highway with some land reserved in the middle for rail facilities. This will be one a firstof-its-kind corridor developed in the country. The main objective of this project is to decongest the city and throw open large urban areas of the metropolitan region to development. We have earmarked spaces for residential, commercial and non-polluting industries to come up along the ORR's extent, and it closely follows the boundaries of the Greater Chennai Metropolitan Area. This is one of the major projects to regulate development in the second masterplan. Information about this growth is readily available in the website for easy access."
It is expected that the ORR will open out at least 700 sq km for development. The Chennai Outer Ring Road will run to a length of 62 km connecting Vandalur on NH-45 (GST) in the South-Western edge with Minjur in Thiruvotriyur-Ponneri-Pancheti (TPP) Road in the northern fringe of the city and close to the Ennore Port and other industrial developments in the Northern areas. The road will run via Nazarathpet on NH-4 (Bangalore Highway), Nemellichery on NH-205 (Chennai-Tirupati-Anantpur Highway) and Padayanallur on NH-5 (Chennai-Calcutta). The Vandalur to Nemillichery stretch, a length of 29.65 km, is being implemented as Phase-1 of development. The Tamil Nadu Road Development Company Limited (TNRDC), Chennai has been appointed as Managing Associate for this project. "Land of 400 ft has already been acquired. Here, a development of 25m+25m of road lanes on either direction is being built with a 22m set aside for future development of a public transit system," says an official at the TNRDC. "Another 50m of land is being kept on the right side of the road for future development. Phase 1 of the project (Vandalur to Nemillichery) is underway now; the contract was awarded to the GMR group and the tender process is in progress for the construction of the second phase. We expect that at least three interchanges will be complete on this phase by early 2013. There is bound to be easy access and reduction of traffic within the city with the formation of the ORR. A slew of satellite towns is expected to come up too."
"The ORR, which links four national highways, is expected to provide a significant thrust to the growth of various sectors. The development is planned so as to connect the industrial, manufacturing and IT corridors," states N Hariharan, Office Director - Chennai, Cushman and Wakefield, major real estate consultants, "The locations along the Outer Ring Road, especially the intersections of the Outer Ring Road and national highways are expected to witness significant real estate growth. These peripheral markets provide the benefit of lower land rates as against the high land costs in the city. The provision for commercial development along the corridor is likely to draw investments; the earmarking of land for future Mass Rapid System or Light Rail Transit is expected to boost connectivity and thereby promote growth." He cites the example of Bengaluru and Hyderabad, both of which have witnessed significant growth of late. "Bengaluru and Hyderabad have witnessed similar infrastructure developments that have augmented growth along the connecting corridors. The Outer Ring Road in Bengaluru has fuelled the growth of one of the fastest growing IT corridors. The stretch from Sarjapur to Marathahalli has witnessed significant commercial and residential developments in addition to housing various SEZ developments. Hyderabad has also registered growth on similar lines with the Outer Ring Road becoming operational even as locations like Appa junction, Narsingiand Bandlaguda are seeing increased residential developments.”
The GMR group bagged the 1,100 crore tender for phase 1 of construction in Chennai by emerging as one of the lowest bidders. "The formation of the road is done on a Build-Operate-Transfer model over 20 years to be implemented by the bidders' own funds," says the official from TNRDC. "Two and a half years is earmarked for the building of the road and 17.5 years for maintenance during which there will be an initial concession ( 300 crores was the figure for phase 1 received by GMR) and an annuity will be paid every six months till the completion of the 20 years."
Says N Singiraj, a resident of Selaiyur and a former contractor with the Military Engineering Services, "The Outer Ring Road will be very helpful with direct access. Not only will it foster development in remote areas, traffic and congestion will also be smoothed out. Take Tambaram for instance. After the construction of the overbridge and enhanced connectivity, the area has become less chaotic. Also, the value of the land goes up in places around the project. So, the ORR makes a lot of sense from the real estate and economic standpoints too."
The city is already a hub for automobile manufacturing, IT, Petroleum refinery, shipping and more. With the Outer Ring Road that promises to transform the city’s landscape, Chennai is all set to metamorphose into a well-connected megapolis very soon.