Tirunelveli, India 

Global Application

The ConnectedCities methodology is applicable to anywhere with a rail system. In the developing countries of Asia, Africa and America it offers a means of accommodating their very fast growth that avoids migration to the already overstretched mega cities, with their urban sprawl, intense high rise living, severe air pollution and often dense slums, where urban infrastructure is often overloaded even before car usage rises to Western levels.

This case study investigates whether instead the ConnectedCities principles can be applied to shift sustainable growth to the more rural areas in which provincial cities are located. It studies India, where currently only 30% of the population live in towns, in comparison with the world average of 50%. With rising expectations and educational levels young people no longer want to stay in the villages, so the challenges are: where should they go; how can their earn enough to support themselves and their families; and what can be done to raise agricultural productivity and incomes?

The example is Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, chosen as typical ‘metro city’ (city population ½ to 1.5 million) sited on an existing railway junction. We consider its: 

Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu is the southernmost state of India, and has a clime classified as tropical savanna. Its population is 78 million, and the growth rate for the decade before the last census was 16%. The major city is Chennai, whose population expanded by 63% between 2001 and 2011. The rail system has 5,952 km (3,698 mi) of track and 532 railway stations.

Tirunelveli District is located in southern Tamil Nadu, and has a population of 3 million in an area of 6,700 sq.km.

Tirunelveli City has just under 500,000 inhabitants in an area of 150 sq. km. Its population expanded by 15% between 2001 and 2011. At present young people are forced to leave the city and move to the mega cities tofind housing and work: hence the dramatic growth in Chennai.

The ConnectedCites methodology identifies Tirunelveli as the hub town of the potential ConnectedCity. Tirunelveli has two stations: Tirunelveli Junction and Tirunelveli Town. The former is much larger than the latter, and the natural Hub.


Tirunelveli is at the junction of four rail lines, all operated by the Southern Railway Zone. The north-south routes are electrified single track, and the east-west are non electrified single track. In February 2015 Indian Railways sanctioned of the double tracking of the north-south line between Maniyachi-Tirunelveli Nagercoil, a distance of 170km costing 1.7 billon rupees.

There are seven rail stations within 15 minutes travel time of Tirunelveli Junction:

Map of India showing location of Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu showing rail network and location of Tirunelveli district

Map of Tirunelveli district showing location of Tirunelveli city and rail services