The Kochi Metro is the first to use CBTC technology. It is also the first in the country where water transport has been integrated as a feeder service to the metro. Another unique and admirable feature is that 80% of the staff are women who would perform all functions from controlling stations to running the trains, avers Shri Elias George, M.D, Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL), in an interview with Maria R.
Congratulations! Kochi Metro is now on the country’s Metro rail map. What technical, financial, logistic, and project management challenges did you have to deal with to make it one of the fastest–built metros in the country?
KMRL’s dream to provide an integrated transportation system for promoting public transport has finally been achieved. The Kochi city will now see a reduction in carbon emission and traffic congestion. By making commuting a joy, the Metro will enrich the quality of life of the people and make the city more livable. Our mission is connecting people, connecting people with places, and connecting people to opportunities.
With respect to challenges, KMRL had to change the technical specifications of the DPR prepared by DMRC to make the system up-to-date with the technologies. During the initial days, this was a challenging job for us as there were very few technical experts on board. Now, we are very proud to say that the Kochi metro is the first to use the Communication-Based Train Control (CBTC) technology. As regards with various technologies used, DMRC carried out their implementation to make our metro safer, faster, and comfortable.
The financial closure was also a challenge as the proposed loan conditions put forward by JICA were unacceptable to the DEA. Despite this, KMRL could manage to complete the financial closure faster than other metros by securing loans from AFD and Canara Bank.
Implementation of urban infrastructure projects like the Metro rail in a congested city like Kochi, involves tremendous disruptions such as land ownership and land use, people’s mobility pattern, disruption to existing mobility providers, disruption to small businesses in the project area, etc. Aligning the stakeholders and aggrieved parties was a tough task, but KMRL managed to bring them on to the same page by holding regular interactions and discussions and updating them about the progress of the project.
Now, the second phase from Palarivattom to Kakkanad is under the consideration of GOI.
What is the USP of the Kochi metro? Please tell us about its design and construction, and its green features.
There are several important aspects of the Kochi metro:
- PPP on Automatic Fare collection – saving around Rs. 500 crores.
- Kochi One Mobile App - all in one journey and ticketing planner app.
- Themed Stations – depicting nature, culture and traditions.
- Green Initiatives - including vertical gardens.
- Social inclusion with Kudumbashree and the first state to induct transgenders in the system.
- Solar powered projects.
- Women and disabled friendly – the stations are mainly managed by a women self-help group called Kudumbashree.
- Non-motorized transport facilities around the Metro stations.
- Regenerative Breaking Mechanism - electricity produced on breaking mechanism.
- Communication Based Train Control (CBTC).
We wanted to make our metro more women-friendly with more women around, enabling women commuters to feel safer, and to help a thousand women to obtain respectable employment through the Kochi Metro system, thereby enhancing the economic status of nearly a thousand families and helping them become self-sufficient.
Please tell us about KMRL’s upcoming Water Metro project and its funding?
KMRL is all set to implement the integrated water transport project at a cost of Rs. 747 crore with the financial assistance of the German Bank, KFW. This significant project is the first of its kind in the country where water transport has been integrated as a feeder service to the metro as well as the fact that such a significant level of investment is being brought in for improving water transport.
The project envisages the development of 16 identified routes, connecting 10 islands along a network of routes that span 76 km. The project intends to introduce a fleet of 78 fast, fuel-efficient, air-conditioned ferries plying across 38 jetties, 18 of which will be developed as main boat hubs, while the remaining 20 will be minor jetties for transit services. More than 1,00,000 islanders are expected to benefit from the Water Metro, complete with modern watercrafts. It is also a livelihood improvement project with the development of roads and lighting on the islands.