Water metro project in Kochi to be operational in July
The country’s first water metro project connecting ten small islands surrounding the port city Kochi will start on a pilot basis in July. Water Metro officials said integrated metro service connecting rail, road and water will be a game changer and it will kick-start growing need to explore inland water bodies in the state. Though the state is endowed with 44 rivers and many backwaters commuting through these water bodies is limited.
“It will be a socially inclusive transport system. It will have an elite touch with affordable tag. We have already started trial runs and main terminal work has also finished. We have streamlined 15 routes that cover 75 kms and the Cochin Shipyard is making electrically propelled hybrid boats,” said Kochi Metro Managing Director Loknath Behra, also former chief of the state police.
He said it will be energy-efficient and environment-friendly and change the urban commuting concept. Adequate number of boats and building of pontoon bridges in boat terminals are main challenges before the Water Metro, he said.
“We intend to introduce modern, energy efficient, environment- friendly boats at a high frequency to increase ridership. The project is expected to reduce pollution and traffic congestions in the city and also ease access to business areas on the mainland,” said chief general manager of Water Metro P J Shaji.
Estimated cost of the project is ₹819 crore and a major portion of which is financed under Indo-German Financial Cooperation with a long-term loan agreement of 85 million Euros ( ₹579 Crore) with German funding agency, KfW ( Kreditanstault fur Weideraufbou). The Kerala government will foot the rest of the cost.
Officials said location of vessels will be monitored and controlled by traffic controllers at the main hub in Vyttila. “We use the most advanced Lithium Titanite Spinel batteries. It is the first time such a large number of electric hybrid ferries operate as a fleet under one command in a public sector,” said Sajan P John, General Manager (Operations). He said fully air-conditioned boats with wide windows offer a comfortable travel with exotic view of the banks and back waters. In July Water Metro will be starting with five vessels and 23 boats will be available by the year-end, he said. Kochi Metro is also planning a single card, Kochi One Card, to ensure hassle-free travel. For the electric vessels there will be a diesel backup and there will be safety announcements and demos like airlines.
Tourism mandarins are also upbeat as it will provide affordable commuting and can help explore tiny islands around the port city, also known as the Queen of Arabian Sea. “It will be major fillip to the ailing tourism sector. There are many uninhabited tiny islands and bird-sighting locations and some of them will turn tourist attractions,” said a travel operator Joju Jacob adding that Water Metro will have to shed PSU-culture to make it big.