‘Metro Man’ Dr. E. Sreedharan is now in the spotlight and is being felicitated across Kerala as one who has fulfilled the ordinary Malayali’s dream of a ‘Kochi Metro’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Kochi Metro on June 17 and he will be the first official passenger to board it. In an interview given to Mathrubhumi today, Dr E. Sreedharan spoke about the numerous challenges that Kochi Metro project faced, which eventually caused delay in terms of delivery. He expressed his disappointment of not being able to complete Phase 1 within three years and thereby keep his word to the people of Kochi.
So, what caused delays in the Kochi Metro project and what challenges had to be overcome?
E. Sreedharan told Mathrubhumi, “There were several issues pertaining to civil contractors. They were given a clear delivery timeline to complete it in 2 years and they were supposed to do this. We calculated that if it is completed in two years, then we can complete checks and wrap up Phase 1 by the third year. Our calculations went for a toss as the civil contractors took almost three and a half years to complete the project.”
He adds, “L&T is one of India’s best-known and most reputed companies, but they failed to meet deadlines because of factors that are unique to our state. For instance, the jobs scenario in Kerala is different from the rest of the country. For six months in a year, we have rains and we are used to it, but not the Kochi Metro workers who were mostly from other states. Their productivity suffered as they struggled to adjust to the rains. It was not feasible to hire workers from our state – the daily wages would have been much more…around Rs 700 to Rs 800 per day, whereas for workers from other states such as Odisha and Jharkhand, the daily wage was Rs 350.”
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“Another factor that contributed to the delay of the Kochi Metro was the frequent strikes. We lost 120 working days because of strikes and bandhs. Also, the process of land acquisition took some time. The cost of construction materials is three times more expensive in Kerala as compared to Delhi and Nagpur. Even sand costs a lot in our state. For Kochi Metro, we opted to use M. Sand, which was costly, but for the entire project, I am happy to say that we were able to complete Kochi Metro at a much lesser cost than what we had budgeted,” Dr. E. Sreedharan elaborated.
Commuting is a big pain point for the people of Kochi and there are great expectations that the Kochi Metro will be able to address this effectively. The city is gearing up to celebrate the occasion in a big way. Traders in Kochi city are already distributing sweets ahead of the inauguration. There have been several challenges that almost stalled the ambitious Kochi Metro project but finally, it is ready to be dedicated to the people of the state.