Kochi: Sluggish pace of works threatens to delay the launch of the Kochi Water Metro.
The government, Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL), and Cochin Shipyard have all been reiterating that the first phase of Water Metro would be commissioned in January 2021. But the project still lacks the momentum needed to meet that deadline.
As months pass by, the commissioning date gets postponed. The commissioning date was postponed from December to January this month.
According to the dates announced during the project inauguration, the Water Metro ferries should have been cruising along the backwaters by now.
Though both the government and the KMRL want the project to be completed at the earliest, the work at the grassroots level is reportedly moving at a slow pace.
The Rs 747-crore Kochi Water Metro project aims to introduce modern ferries, providing better transportation facilities to people living on islands surrounding the city. Boat jetties will also be revamped as part of the project. Apart from connecting the islands to the main city, the Water Metro offers an alternative transport mode for the city folks.
23 boats in first phase
The construction of the first boat has begun at the Cochin Shipyard. The Shipyard had given an assurance that the first boat would be handed over in December and five boats each would be provided every four weeks. Twenty-three eco-friendly boats are required for the first phase.
If they get the boat in December, authorities plan to commission the Water Metro by starting service in the Vyttila-Infopark route in January. And to extend the services to the islands in the following months.
However, only the basic structure of the boat will be built at the Shipyard. All the main components will have to be imported from abroad and fitted on to the boat. The contract for this is yet to be awarded. The boat's integrator, comprising motor and generator, has also not been finalised.
Lithium-titanate oxide (LTO) batteries will be used. Though costlier than normal batteries, the LTO lasts longer and is doubly safe. Orders have to be placed for manufacturing these batteries, which then have to be imported and fitted on to the boat. The interior tender of the boat has also not been completed. Handing over the boat after completing all these tasks within three months appears to be an unlikely scenario.
Process expedited, says KMRL
However, the KMRL claimed that all works, including that of the terminal, were progressing. The intelligent transport management system contract is in the final stage.
Also, the tender for the workshop vessel is also in the final phase. Workshop vessel will be deployed to carry out the maintenance works if the boats suffer any technical glitch while conducting service.
The land acquisition process for the 22 terminals in the second phase has begun. Works for clearing the 7 of the first 15 routes will begin next month.
All sanctions in, still…
Authorities have no reason to give over the delay in the Water Metro project. All government sanctions have been given. The environmental clearance was received in October 2019. The German Development Bank has also released the promised loan. Also, there are no problems with land acquisition. Some owners even offered the land for free. The land of government agencies has already been acquired. The other land acquisition processes are underway.
Varapuzha Church gave land for free
St. Joseph and Mount Carmel Church at Varapuzha handed over eight cents of land for free for building the Water Metro's terminal.
The KMRL has already started preliminary works of the terminal at the land.
The first report on Water Metro did not have the Varapuzha terminal. After the public raised demands, the church agreed to give the land.
Johnson Punnathil, former president of Varapuzha panchayat, said that the KMRL had sought permission from the panchayat to start works.
The panchayat committee has also submitted an official request to extend the services to Mannamthuruthu ferry, and depotkadavu. The KMRL has also completed the survey of these regions.
However, authorities said that as the land acquisition process would be delayed due to financial constraints, the boat jetty construction at Chettibagam and Mannamthuruthu areas are unlikely to happen in the first phase. Apart from the eight cents of land, 20 cents of purampokku (government land) can also be used for boat jetty construction.
100 passengers, 50 seats
Hundred passengers can travel in the 50-seater boat. The same ticket can be used to travel on Water Metro and Metro trains. The interiors of the boat will resemble that of the Metro train. Even the same materials will be used for the seats that will be arranged in two rows, akin to the buses.
The boat will also have a big, digital screen that will display advertisements, notifications and videos.
The air-conditioned boat will have wi-fi and a modern safety system. The Water Metro boats will conduct services even in the night.
The Water Metro will have an intelligent transport management system. The tender for this has been opened and is under the scrutiny of the German Development bank.
CCTV cameras will be placed both inside and outside of the vessel. Other features of the vessel are automatic system for ticket collection, GPRS, passenger information system, master clock, and centralised operational control centre.
Intelligence video system cameras, that can alert about overcrowding and unclaimed bags, are another speciality.
16 boat jetties in the first phase (work on six have started): Eloor, Cheranellor, south Chittoor, Port Trust, Kumbalam, Kadamakudy, Mulavukad North, Paliyam Thuruthu, Vyttila, Eroor, Kakkanad, High Court, Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, Vypin, and Bolgatty.