The first phase of the Kochi Metro will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 17 and service trials of the 13-km Aluva-Palarivattom corridor have started with the rail safety panel giving it the green signal. The elevated rail line is already drawing accolades across the world for several initiatives that are seen innovative and inclusive. Perhaps Kochi may be the first city in the country to have a single transportation network, including water transport, with seamless interchange, a single ticketing system, and a unified transportation network management, command and control.
The Rs 5,180 crore rail project will eventually cover a total distance of 25 km from Aluva (Alwaye) to Petta, although the opening will see the train service operating a distance of only 13 km from Alwaye to Palarivattom. The completed rail line is proposed to cut the average travel time for a commuter from nearly 2 hours now to just 40 minutes. Built on a PPP model between the Centre and the state government, Kochi Metro has DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation) as the implementing agency.
E Sreedharan, principal adviser, DMRC, told FE, “It was DMRC which took the initiative to bring a metro system to Kochi way back in 2008. Kochi Metro has the distinction of commissioning the first section, faster than any metro in the country in less than four years. No other metro has so far achieved the distinction. The first section is also the longest, compared to any other metro in the country.”
He added that this is first time the most advanced signalling system, namely communication-based train control system (CBTC), is being cornmissioned in India. “This is also the first time DMRC has constructed a metro with third rail 750 volt DC traction. All metro lines of DMRC are with 25 KV overhead traction,” Sreedharan said.
The CBTC technology controls the movement of trains, allowing them to run at higher frequencies and speeds with greater safety. With the introduction of the CBTC system, the position of a train will be known more accurately than with the traditional signalling systems. It is also a more efficient way of managing rail traffic.
Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL), the company formed to manage the system, hopes to use the metro project not just in solving the city’s traffic woes, but also as a larger platform for an integrated public transportation system that will link the city’s famed ferries, bus services and even auto rickshaws with the metro rail.
The agency hopes that by integrating all public transport vehicles, people will shift completely to public transport. By promoting a ‘Water Metro’, Kochi will be the first Indian city where water transport is developed as a feeder service to the metro rail. The project, financed by the German Development Bank under the ‘climate-friendly urban mobility’ plan, envisages development of 16 routes, connecting 38 jetties across 10 islands, and spans a route network of 76 km. The project will see as 78 fast, modern and fuel-efficient ferries plying to 18 major and 20 minor destinations.
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Kochi Metro will be partly powered by solar energy as part of the effort to develop the metro as the most environment-friendly, green metro system in the country, KMRL officials said. The stations are designed for energy saving features like maximum natural ventilation in passenger areas, use of LED lighting, water-efficient fittings in toilets and rainwater harvesting wherever possible. KMRL is also planning to have vertical gardens along the metro corridor as part of green initiatives.
Sreedharan added that there is no doubt Kochi Metro will change the travelling habits and ways of the people of Kochi. “KMRL and DMRC can jointly take the credit for the first section being completed well within the sanctioned cost,” he said.
Inclusive development plays a major part in the planning and implementation of any major transportation system. Towards that, KMRL has taken efforts to ensure that the system will help in improving the livelihoods of the marginalised people in the city and suburbs. Women and transgenders have a special place in the metro rail and will be seen in the roles of loco-pilots, manning ticket counters and housekeeping of stations. In fact, KMRL is the first government-owned company to officially appoint transgenders, with 23 of them joining duty in the first phase. Of the total 39 loco-pilots appointed by KMRL, seven are women.