Kochi: After Metro, Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) is now focusing on implementing an integrated water transport system. By January 2017, KMRL plans to link mainland Ernakulam with major jetties on the islands surrounding it and the agency will place boat procurement orders by August 2016. In a workshop held on Saturday, KMRL unveiled the plan for the ‘water Metro’ project that envisages the development of 16 identified routes, connecting 38 jetties across 10 islands covering a 76km network.
KMRL MD Elias George said the project, which would be implemented in two phases, would become fully operational in 2019. The agency intends to introduce a fleet of 78 fast, fuel efficient, air-conditioned ferries. Of the 38 jetties, 18 will be developed as main boat hubs, while the remaining 20 will be minor jetties for transit services. The project will be integrated with Kochi Metro, road and rail network.
“The project is a bigger game changer than Metro. Our intension is to start the project in 2016 and finish it within three years. We expect the German development bank -KfW (funding agency) – to clear the loan of Rs 819 crore by February so that we can begin works in March,” he said. Phase I will see 43 boats being operated on seven routes in 2017, with the remaining routes being completed in phase II with 27 boats.
In the detailed discussion held on boats and docking system, integration of transport system, land, environment and dredging, operation and growth potential; experts and people’s representatives gave suggestions that have to be incorporated in the detailed project report. The discussion panel recommended fibre-reinforced plastic boats (FRP), on board and off board cameras and a reliable helpline system. The panel put the capacity between 50 and 100 for boats, while asking the survey department to look into dredging and related matters.
A survey showed that people are willing to shift to water transport if they are assured of an effective service. The daily crowd is estimated to be 40,316 by 2019, and 53,592 by 2025. “It is better we use FRP boats that have a speed of 10 knots. A diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system is preferred. The encroachments by Chinese fishing nets have to be removed and proper dredging is required at regular intervals,” said Rear Admiral (retd) B R Menon, who headed the panel.
Former mayor KJ Sohan – who headed the panel on integration of transport systems – said parking areas will have to be developed at boat jetties and there should be feeder services. Director of Inland Water Authority of India Unni N said that the agency has completed dredging on a 55km-stretch of the project area as it is part of national waterway 3. KMRL said there should be provisions for cycle rental and cycle tracks at the jetties.