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Light Rail Transit: Thiruvananthapuram Light Metro

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Introduction

Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) Light Metro, with one line and nineteen stations, is a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system approved for construction in Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum). The Phase 1 project of the Trivandrum Metro will be carried out by Kerala Rapid Transit Corporation Limited (KRTL), a special purpose vehicle of the Kerala government. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) was chosen as an interim consultant in January 2016, but DMRC left the project in 2018 due to the slow progress of the project works. The project was put on hold in 2017 due to its high cost and poor ridership forecasts, which did not align with the Government of India’s new Metro Rail Policy. A revised DPR developed by the DMRC was accepted by KRTL’s board in October 2020 and by Kerala’s state government in February 2021.

Key Information

  • Operational : 0 Km
  • Under Construction : 0 Km
  • Approved: 21.82 Km
  • Estimated Cost: Rs. 4673 Crore

Phase 1 Routes

Line 1: Technocity – Karamana

  • Length: 21.821 km
  • Estimated Cost: Rs. 4219 crore
  • Number of Stations: Nineteen
  • Stations: Technocity, Pallipuram, Kaniyapuram, Kazhakoottam, Kazhakoottam Junction, Kariavattom, Gurumandiram, Pangapara, Sreekaryam, Ulloor, Kesavadasapuram, Pattom, Plamoodu, Palayam, Secretariat, Thampanoor (Trivandrum Central Railway Station), Killipalam, Karamana

 

Timeline & Development Phase

Thiruvananthapuram’s first attempt to establish a fast transport system for the city failed in the 2000s, when its proposal to build a metro rail system was denied by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). The Kerala Government then entrusted the National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC), an autonomous research body under the State Government, for conducting a feasibility study on the plan to create a monorail system in Thiruvananthapuram. A core team of five NATPAC scientists and other survey teams conducted the feasibility study. The study’s key components were topographic studies, station identification, and surveys. The state government initially requested the state transport department to provide a detailed project report (DPR). However, the task was later assigned to the DMRC. On December 11, 2012, DMRC principal advisor, Er. E. Sreedharan submitted the DPR to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. In October 2012, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) was created. On November 26, 2012, the Thiruvananthapuram Monorail project was assigned to KMCL. Prior to that, the government had passed and handed over the Kozhikode Monorail project to the KMCL.

On June 12, 2013, the state cabinet approved the signing of an agreement between KMCL and DMRC. According to the agreement, DMRC would be paid 3.25% of the Rs. 55.81 billion in general consultant costs (Rs. 35.90 billion for Thiruvananthapuram and Rs. 19.91 billion for Kozhikode). The agreement between the parties was signed on June 19, 2013.

Global bids were issued for the Thiruvananthapuram Monorail project. The deadline for technical bids was extended to October 15 from October 01. However, the only company that declared an interest before the deadline was a consortium led by Bombardier Transportation. Japanese firm Hitachi, Malaysian firm Scomi, and firms from the United Kingdom, South Korea, and China also submitted pre-bid queries. Because the proposed project received only one bid, a second tender was required. Therefore, the deadline for the bids once again was extended until April 15th.

In the second round of tender submissions, Bombardier Transportation, Hitachi, Afcons, Scomi, and Larsen & Toubro all showed interest. On February 20, 2014, a pre-bid meeting was held in New Delhi. However, bidding for both the Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram projects was delayed due to the model code of conduct coming into effect ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Additionally, due to cost overruns, the State Government opted to select Metro instead of Monorail in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode on August 28, 2014. Though slightly costlier, metro has certain advantages, such as easy raising of capacity, greater durability, lesser maintenance etc., compared to other modes of urban rail transit like Metrolite and MetroNeo.

Monorail Proposals & Track Elevation Development

Hyundai Rotem representatives proposed in 2012 that the city should develop a mass rapid transport network using Maglev technology. The state government, however, on August 28, 2014, opted to build a conventional rail metro rather than a monorail, like with the then-under-construction Kochi Metro, in both Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode, owing to exorbitant costs indicated by prospective manufacturers.

The Trivandrum City Corporation faced significant problems in building the city’s elevated Viaduct. This was because most city suburbs had narrow roads. In July 2019, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan stated that the route will not follow the NH 66 (Kovalam Bypass) but rather enter Thampanoor via Sreekariyam, Kesavadasapuram, and Pattom, three of Trivandrum’s busiest suburbs.

Personal Rapid Transit

INKEL Ltd had suggested a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system in Thiruvananthapuram. The new approach is estimated to attract 40% of vehicle and auto rickshaw passengers. The PRT shall serve as a feeder mode of transit, supplementing the metro. The project will be executed in two stages. The first will run from Pallipuram to Thampanoor, while the second would stretch from Thampanoor to Neyyattinkara.

The track will traverse via Vellayambalam, Palayam, Statue, Overbridge, East Fort, and Thampanoor, with 35 stations proposed. 

The project is expected to cost Rs. 60 crore per km and will take 24 to 30 months to complete. In the 2012-13 State Budget, Finance Minister K.M. Mani allotted Rs. 2.5 million for preliminary work on the PRT in Thiruvananthapuram and Kottayam. From the date of commencement, the project is anticipated to be completed in 24 months. 

The Metro Plan

The Thiruvananthapuram line is scheduled to operate from Technocity to Karamana, spanning a distance of 22.537 km, including 19 stations along the existing NH 47. For the proposed flyovers at Kazhakuttam, Sreekaryam, and Ulloor, minor modifications have been made. At Railway Km 221/6-8, special spans have been proposed where the line crosses the railway line.

The car depot is situated on 12.5 hectares of government land near the Pallipuram CRPF Camp. The project is scheduled to be developed in three phases. Technocity, Pallippuram, Kaniyapuram, Kazhakootam Junction, Karyavattom, Gurumandiram, Pangappara, Sreekariyam, Pongumoodu, Ulloor, Kesavadasapuram, Pattom, Plamood, Palayam, Secretariat, Thampanoor, Killipalam, and Karamana would all have stations. The line shall be built in three stages.

Route Terminals Length (km) Stations Opening date
Route 1 Technocity Kariavattom 7 To be announced
Route 2 Kesavadasapuram Karamana 8
Route 3 Kariavattom Kesavadasapuram 8
Total 22.20 19 2025

Route 1 shall cover a distance of seven kilometres from Technocity to Kariavattom. It is scheduled to be completed 30 months after the contractor is selected. The metro shall have options for extension towards the south up to Neyyattinkara as well as towards the north to Attingal. Another suggestion is to extend the network all the way to Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.

Funding & Cost

Based on April 2012 prices, the project cost was Rs. 27.0256 billion (US$340 million), excluding taxes of Rs. 4.75 billion (US$59 million). Each kilometre of metro construction was projected to cost Rs. 1617.1 million. The Design-Build-Operate-Transfer (DBOT) mode was proposed. The State and Union governments were to contribute 20% of the cost, with the remainder to be financed by other investors such as banks.

Finance Minister K. M. Mani allocated Rs. 200 million (US$2.5 million) towards the Thiruvananthapuram project in the 2012 State Budget. The project will be funded in part by a 5% state government tax on fuel and diesel sales. The surcharge is estimated to generate Rs. 2.50 billion in revenue every year. The operation and maintenance costs are divided into three major categories: staffing expenses, maintenance costs (which include expenditure for system and consumable upkeep and maintenance), and energy costs. The Technocity – Karamana segment cost was revised to Rs. 4,219 crore in 2015.

Latest Update

The decision on whether to develop a light metro, metrolite, or conventional metro in Thiruvananthapuram is likely to be delayed because the Urban Mass Transit Company Limited (UMTC) has not yet submitted the study report on the comprehensive mobility plan (CMP) and alternate traffic analysis (ATS) to the Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL), the project’s executing agency. Although the fact that the deadline for submitting the report was March 31, the study is yet to be completed and submitted, according to media outputs.

In this context, UMTC officials met with KMRL and requested a time extension for submitting the report. Following the delay, the KMRL stated that they had had a conversation with UMTC and requested clarifications. KMRL officials also stated that the report had not been submitted. They did, however, meet with UMTC officials for further development and timely submission of the reports. The UMTC noted that they had some concerns, and the study is nearing completion. More than 90% of the study’s work has been done, and the report shall be delivered soon.

The KMRL has started preparing for project execution since the Centre previously advised the state government that a single company should be ideally selected to supervise the state’s metro projects. The Union government earlier had advocated a metrolite concept rather than a light metro in the city. However, the state government is opposed to the metrolite idea because the system is yet to be implemented anywhere in the country, making its installation an experiment.

KMRL MD Mr. Loknath Behera earlier said that he had written to the district collector and the mayor of Trivandrum, requesting help and cooperation in completing the project. According to District Collector Mr. Geromic George, the UMTC presented an interim report last month indicating that the study was underway.

The Trivandrum collector stated that representatives from the UMTC attended the January stakeholders meeting. The company presented the current situation of the study and stated what was required to be done at the meeting. They even provided him with an interim status report. According to information from sources, the study is nearing completion, and the report will be submitted to the KMRL soon. 

Following the submission of the study report, a detailed project report (DPR) shall be prepared. The DPR will be submitted for approval to the state government and then to the Union government, which is the sanctioning authority for metro rail. There is also a plan to develop an underground metro in some regions of Thiruvananthapuram.

 

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