Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum): Brief Introduction
KERALA (Metro Rail News): Thiruvananthapuram, also known by its former name Trivandrum, is the capital of the Indian state of Kerala. It is the most populous city in Kerala, with a population of 957,730 as of 2011. The encompassing urban agglomeration population is around 1.68 million. Located on the west coast of India near the extreme south of the mainland, Thiruvananthapuram is a central information technology hub in Kerala. It contributes 55% of the state’s software exports as of 2016. Referred to by Mahatma Gandhi as the ‘Evergreen city of India’, the city is characterised by its undulating terrain of low coastal hills.
The present regions that constitute Thiruvananthapuram were ruled by the Ays, who were feudatories of the Chera dynasty. In the 12th century, it was conquered by the Kingdom of Venad. In the 18th century, king Marthanda Varma expanded the territory, founded the princely state of Travancore, and made Thiruvananthapuram the capital. Travancore became the most dominant state in Kerala by defeating the powerful Zamorin of Kozhikode in the battle of Purakkad in 1755. Following India’s independence in 1947, Thiruvananthapuram became the capital of the Travancore-Cochin state and remained so until the new Indian state of Kerala was formed in 1956.
Thiruvananthapuram is a notable academic and research hub and home to the University of Kerala, APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, the regional headquarters of Indira Gandhi National Open University, and many other schools and colleges. Thiruvananthapuram is also home to research centres such as the National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, National Centre for Earth Science Studies and a campus of the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research. In addition, the city is home to media institutions like Toonz India Ltd and Tata Elxsi Ltd and Chitranjali Film Studio, one of the first film studios in Malayalam Cinema, and Kinfra Film and Video Park at Kazhakoottom, which is India’s first Infotainment industrial park.
Being India’s largest city in the deep south, it is strategically prominent. It hosts the Southern Air Command headquarters of the Indian Air Force, the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station and the upcoming Vizhinjam International Seaport. Thiruvananthapuram is a major tourist centre known for the Padmanabhaswamy Temple, the beaches of Kovalam and Varkala, the backwaters of Poovar and Anchuthengu and its Western Ghats tracts of Ponmudi and the Agastya Mala. In 2012, Thiruvananthapuram was named the best Kerala city to live in by a field survey conducted by The Times of India. In 2013, the city was ranked the fifteenth-best city in India in a survey conducted by India Today. Thiruvananthapuram was ranked the best Indian city for two consecutive years, 2015 and 2016, according to the Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) conducted by the Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy. The city was also selected as the best-governed city in India in a survey conducted by Janaagraha Centre for citizenship and democracy in 2017.
Thiruvananthapuram is a central tourist hub in India. Kovalam and Varkala are popular beach towns near the city. Other vital beaches include Poovar, Shankumugham Beach, Azhimala Beach, Vizhinjam Beach and Veli Beach. The Padmanabhaswamy Temple at the heart of the city is known as the wealthiest place of worship in the world. Other places of interest include Agasthyamala rain forests, Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kallar, Braemore, Ponmudi hills, Poovar, Anchuthengu backwaters, Varkala Cliffs and Kappil-Edava lakes.
The city is also known for its unique style of architecture involving Kerala Architecture with British and Dravidian influences. Napier museum, Thiruvanathapuram Zoo, Padmanabha Swamy temple, Kuthira Malika palace, Kilimanoor palace and The Thiruvananthapuram Golf Club heritage building are examples of this. The leading museums include Kerala Science and Technology Museum (with its attached Priyadarsini Planetarium), Napier Museum, Kerala Soil Museum and Koyikkal Palace Museum. Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve is listed in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Need for a modern transport System for an ancient and essential city
Thiruvananthapuram’s economy comprises Information Technology, education, plantations, aerospace, commerce and tourism. Thiruvananthapuram district contributes 10.31% of the state’s GDP. With an economic growth rate of 13.83%, Thiruvananthapuram is the fastest-growing district in Kerala. Thiruvananthapuram was listed as one of the top ten cities in India on the Vibrancy and Consumption Index in a study conducted by global financial services firm Morgan Stanley. State- and central-government employees comprise a large percentage of the city’s workforce. Thiruvananthapuram is a major aerospace research centre in India. The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, the most important and leading centre of ISRO and several space-related, state-owned ISRO centres such as Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, and ISRO Inertial Systems Unit are based in Thiruvananthapuram. The BrahMos Aerospace Trivandrum Limited is one of India’s leading missile integration and defence production units. Other enterprises include Travancore Titanium Products, Kerala Automobiles Limited, MILMA, English Indian Clays, Keltron, Trivandrum Rubber Works and HLL Lifecare Limited.
Thiruvananthapuram is a central IT and ITES hub in India. The city contributes around 55% of Kerala’s total software exports. Thiruvananthapuram houses major multinational Technology companies like Oracle Corporation, Nissan, Allianz Technology, Envestnet, Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Toonz Animation India, UST Global, Ernst & Young, Flytxt, Navigant, Tata Elxsi, McKinsey & Company, RR Donnelly and Quest Global. Technopark is the largest information-technology park in India in terms of built-up area. It is Kerala’s most significant employment base campus, with 52,000 IT/ITES professionals and about 400 companies. Other IT, media and industrial campuses include Kinfra Film and Video Park, Kinfra Apparel Park, B-HUB and Chithranjali Film Complex. In addition, several new IT, biotechnology and industrial campuses like Technocity and Bio 360 Life sciences park are under construction.
Tourism is an important economic sector. The presence of natural attractions like beaches, backwaters, hills, and plantations and attractions like heritage, history, Ayurveda, medical tourism and knowledge centres attract many tourists. The city experienced a surge of investment in the real estate, infrastructure and retail sectors in 2016–17. However, port-related activity is low mainly due to the underdevelopment of ports. Vizhinjam International Seaport is a transhipment port under construction. Vizhinjam port’s location is close to the international shipping routes and is just 10–12 nautical miles from the busy Persian Gulf-Malacca shipping lane. The port also has a natural depth of 18 to 20 metres which can accommodate substantial container ships. The berths at Vizhinjam port are designed to cater to vessels of up to 24,000 TEU.
Mass Rapid Transit System
Thiruvananthapuram’s first attempt to build a rapid transit system for the city failed when its proposal to build a metro rail system was rejected by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) in the 2000s. The Government of Kerala then entrusted the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC), an autonomous research body under the State Government, to conduct the feasibility study of the proposal to build a monorail system in Thiruvananthapuram. The feasibility study was conducted by a core team comprising five scientists of NATPAC and various survey teams. The study’s principal components were topographic studies, identification of stations and surveys.
The state government initially asked the transport department to prepare a detailed project report (DPR). However, the DMRC was later entrusted with the task. DMRC principal advisor E. Sreedharan submitted the DPR to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on 11 December 2012. A particular purpose vehicle (SPV) was created in October 2012. The Thiruvananthapuram Monorail project was assigned to the KMCL on 26 November 2012. Before that, the government had handed over the Kozhikode Monorail project to the KMCL. On 12 June 2013, the state cabinet gave clearance for an agreement to be signed between KMCL and DMRC. The DMRC will receive 3.25% of the Rs. 55.81 billion (Rs. 35.90 billion for Thiruvananthapuram and Rs. 19.91 billion for Kozhikode) in general consultant fees. The agreement was signed on 19 June 2013.
Global tenders were floated for the Thiruvananthapuram Monorail. The deadline for technical bids was extended from 1 October 2013 to 15 October. However, a consortium led by Bombardier Transportation was the only firm that expressed an interest before the deadline. Pre-bid queries had also been made by Japanese firm Hitachi, Malaysian firm Scomi, and firms from the United Kingdom, South Korea, and China. The tender for the proposed project only received one bid, so a second tender had to be issued. The deadline for bids was extended again to 15 April. Bombardier Transportation, Hitachi, Afcons, Scomi, Larsen and Toubro expressed interest in the second round of tender submissions. A pre-bid meeting was held in New Delhi on 20 February 2014. Bidding on the Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram projects was delayed by the model code of conduct coming into effect before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
On 28 August 2014, the State Government decided to use the Metro, instead of Monorail, in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode, mainly due to cost overruns. Though slightly costlier, Metro has several advantages, such as easy capacity raising, DMRC’s expertise in the field and more companies who can bid for the project.
Metro Route & Plan
The Thiruvananthapuram line will start from Technocity and terminate at Karamana, covering a distance of 22.537 km with 19 stations along the old NH 47. Slight accommodations were made for the proposed flyovers at Kazhakuttam, Sreekariyam and Ulloor. In addition, extraordinary spans are proposed where the line crosses the railway line at Railway Km 221/6-8. The car depot is located on 12.5 hectares of Government land near the CRPF Camp at Pallipuram.
The project will be built in 3 phases. Stations would be located at Technocity, Pallippuram, Kaniyapuram, Kazhakootam Junction, Karyavattom, Gurumandiram, Pangappara, Sreekariyam, Pongumoodu, Ulloor, Kesavadasapuram, Pattom, Plamood, Palayam, Secretariat, Thampanoor, Killipalam, and Karamana. The line will be built in three phases.
Route 1 covers a distance of 7 km from Technocity to Kariavattom. It is expected to be commissioned 30 months after the contractor is finalised. The Metro will have provisions for extension towards the south up to Neyyattinkara and towards the north to Attingal. There is another proposal to extend the network to Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.
Key Figures & Metro Details
Operational : 0 Km
Under Construction : 0 Km
Approved: 21.82 Km
Phase 1 Routes
Line 1: Technocity – Karamana
Length: 2.821 Km
Estimated Cost: Rs. 4219 Crore
Number of Stations: 19
Station Names: Technocity, Pallipuram, Kaniyapuram, Kazhakoottam, Kazhakoottam Junction, Kariavattom, Gurumandiram, Pangapara, Sreekaryam, Ulloor, Kesavadasapuram, Pattom, Plamoodu, Palayam, Secretariat, Thampanoor (Trivandrum Central Railway Station), Killipalam, Karamana.
The cost of the project, based on April 2012 prices, was Rs. 27.0256 billion, excluding taxes of Rs. 4.75 billion. The cost to construct each kilometre of the Metro was estimated at Rs. 1617.1 million. The Design, Build-Operate-Transfer (DBOT) mode was proposed. The State and Union governments were to each pay 20% of the cost, and the rest was to be paid by other investors, such as banks.
In the 2012 State Budget, finance minister K. M. Mani allotted Rs. 200 million for the Thiruvananthapuram project. The project will partly be financed by a 5% state government surcharge on petrol and diesel sales. The surcharge is expected to bring in Rs. 2.50 billion per year. The operation and maintenance costs are divided into three major parts – staff costs, maintenance costs which include expenditure towards upkeep and maintenance of the system and consumables, and energy costs. In 2015, the cost for the Technocity – Karamana section was revised to Rs. 4,219 crores.
Representatives of Hyundai Rotem proposed in 2012 to use Maglev technology for setting up a mass rapid transport system in the city. However, on 28 August 2014, the state government decided to build a conventional rail metro rather than a monorail, as with then under-construction Kochi Metro, in both Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode, mainly due to the prohibitive costs cited by prospective manufacturers.
Personal Rapid Transit
INKEL ltd has proposed a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system in Thiruvananthapuram. A shift of 40% of the car and auto-rickshaw travellers to the new system is expected. The PRT will function as a feeder transport to supplement the Metro.
The project will be completed in two phases. The first will be from Pallipuram to Thampanoor and the second from Thampanoor to Neyyattinkara. Thirty-five stations are proposed, and the track will pass through Vellayambalam, Palayam, Statue, Overbridge, East Fort and Thampanoor. The approximate cost of the project is Rs. 60 crores per kilometre, and it can be completed in 24 to 30 months. Finance Minister K.M. Mani allocated Rs. 2.5 million in the 2012-13 State Budget for preliminary work on the PRT in Thiruvananthapuram and Kottayam. The project is expected to be completed 24 months from the commencement date.
Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) Light Metro, with 1 line and 19 stations, is a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system approved to be built in the city of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala’s capital.
Trivandrum Metro’s Phase 1 project will be executed by Kerala Rapid Transit Corporation Limited (KRTL), a special-purpose vehicle of the government of Kerala. In January 2016, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) was appointed interim consultant but quit the project in 2018 due to slow progress. The project in 2017 was put on hold due to its high cost and low ridership projections, which were not in line with the Government of India’s new Metro Rail Policy. KRTL’s board approved a revised DPR prepared by the DMRC in October 2020 and by Kerala’s state government in February 2021.