Kochi Metro explained: Kerala’s first metro rail with ‘made in India’ coaches

Kochi Metro is built at a cost of Rs 5,181 crores and will span 25 kilometres across 22 stations.

Written by Vishnu Varma | New Delhi | Updated: January 14, 2016 4:26 pm
kochi metro, kochi metro rail, KMRL, kerala metro, kochi metro coaches, kochi metro train, kochi news, metro rail in india, DMRC, trains in india, india metro trains, kerala news Kochi Metro: The first set of train coaches delivered by Alstom India at the Muttom yard in Kochi, Kerala (Image courtesy: KMRL)

Decks are being cleared for the launch of India’s eighth and Kerala’s first metro rail network in the state’s financial capital and nerve centre of Kochi. The first set of coaches arrived in the city last week and a test run will be conducted in the presence of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on January 23, top officials at Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) told IndianExpress.com.

“We will take the train on the viaduct next month. The operational date, depending on clearance from safety commissioners, will be sometime in August-September. We hope to make at least the stretch between Aluva and Edapally operational by then,” said Reshmi CR, head of corporate communications at KMRL.

Built at a staggering cost of Rs 5,181 crore, the metro line will span 25 km from Aluva to Pettah across 22 stations, coursing through some of the busiest roads in the city. The metro is proposed to cut the average travel time for a commuter from nearly 2 hours now to just 40 minutes. The initial ridership is estimated to be 1.5 lakh passengers a day which will reportedly soar to 6 lakh by 2030.

Kochi was the first Tier-II city to be sanctioned a metro rail project by the Centre during the previous Manmohan Singh regime. After being elected to power in 2011, the Congress government in the state led by Ooommen Chandy has touted the completion of the project a prestige issue and as a testament to its commitment to build much-needed infrastructure in the state. Battled by graft and allegations of inefficiency, the Congress government would find the completion of the project heartening as the state goes for polls later this year.

The metro project, built on a PPP model between the Centre and state governments, has DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation) as the implementing agency and E Sreedharan, the man who single-handedly conceived the Delhi metro, as the principal advisor to the DMRC. Although initial stages of the project involved intense wrangling between the state and DMRC, the issues were resolved after a change in management.

kochi metro, kochi metro rail, KMRL, kerala metro, kochi metro coaches, kochi metro train, kochi news, metro rail in india, DMRC, trains in india, india metro trains, kerala news The viaduct under construction for the metro rail in Kochi, Kerala (Image courtesy: KMRL)

Officials at KMRL insisted that the role of Sreedharan, who hails from Kerala, managed to assuage the feelings of the people about the project. “Land acquisition was fast and smooth. People were happy that Sreedharan was on board. With him in the saddle, they knew the project would happen,” said Reshmi.

The coaches for the train were ‘made in India’ by Alstom, a French company, at the Sri City facility in Andhra Pradesh. The company is contracted to supply KMRL 25 standard gauge trains with three cars each with a capacity to carry 975 passengers. The trains are also equipped to be driver-less in future if required. KMRL’s consultant department worked in close tandem with Alstom India on the design of the coaches to give it a traditional and authentic look.

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Officials said the coaches would be designed in light blue livery with depictions of Kerala’s art and culture on its sides. Six major stations will adopt themes that will incorporate the cultural imprints of the city as well as the state as it went through decades of colonial rule before Indian independence. For example, the station near Edapally will focus on the work and contributions of legendary Malayalam poet Changampuzha, who was born and raised here. In addition, the KMRL will also play out a running theme based on the preservation of Western Ghats, the mountain range critical to Kerala’s natural bounty.

As for the ticketing system, KMRL has entered into a PPP deal with Axis Bank Limited with a stipulation that the latter will undertake the entire investment for the Automatic Fare Collection system. Axis Bank will also pay an additional royalty of Rs 209 crore over the next ten years in this partnership. In return, the smart cards issued by KMRL will be co-branded with Axis Bank and can be used for cash-less transaction along with ticketing purposes.

“This smart card can be linked with any bank account of the user, in any Bank, including the Jan-Dhan Yojana,” said, Elias George, MD, KMRL in a statement.

kochi metro, kochi metro rail, KMRL, kerala metro, kochi metro coaches, kochi metro train, kochi news, metro rail in india, DMRC, trains in india, india metro trains, kerala news Work in progress on the Kochi Metro rail near Kalamassery in Kochi, Kerala (Photo courtesy: KMRL)

But more than anything, KMRL hopes to use the metro project not just in solving the city’s traffic woes, but also as a grander platform for an integrated public transportation system that will link the city’s famed ferries and bus services.

“The integrated system will allow us to not be Delhi, where you have to resort to an odd-even rule. Within the system, we will have the Metro, KURTC buses and ferries all running on similar timetables so that traffic will be seamless across the city,” added Reshmi.

Ferries have long been a part of Kochi’s transportation grid with frequent services to nearby islands of Vypeen, Mattanchery, Bolghatty and Fort Kochi. The integration project, that got the sanction of the Centre, is ambitious in nature and aims to introduce air-conditioned and WiFi enabled modern ferries on popular routes. Estimated at a cost of Rs 741 crores, this project is proposed to get operationalised in 2019.

At a time when public transportation models are being overhauled to check for pollution norms, if governments can complete infrastructure projects such as these in time with minimum cost overload, it will go a long way in making our cities greener and healthy in the long term.

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  1. S
    Jan 14, 2016 at 7:20 am
    Congratulations to residents of Kochi ! "staggering cost of Rs 5,181 crore" is insignificant,when compared to the benefits that will accrue over the year. Building it later would have cost many-fold more. Local coaches is added benefits as the critical expertise is gained ...
    1. H
      Harry Achari
      Jan 14, 2016 at 10:52 am
      Its a great occasion to have metro line in kochi gets ready. This is great event for people. Metro is an investment for future which is efficient for commuters. We thanks mr. Chandi for his broad vision. People talk about bullet trains. These trains are unlike metro for long distances. Metro is only for city travel. Acquiring ground is very expensive also for concrete bridges. What we really need is a an outer circle of ring roads for major cities so that people can travel through the cities without touching the cities centers. That could be cheaper ( ofcourse it has another use) as it squires land outside the cities. It is very necessary as the part of development. Every city definitely needs a ring road with more than 6 lines for to and fro like of developed countries. Thank you mr. Chandy. You have done a great contribution.
      1. R
        Jan 14, 2016 at 11:51 am
        Kerala beats Tamils Nadu in the organizational infrastructures. It is methodical , neat with less hazards to the pedestrians and vehicle movements. It is green with clear sky and roads are well built with lines to separate the lanes. This is what education means. Tamil Nadu on the other hand is like house of a mad man, disorganized, callous atude. roads are not separated by white lines, no discipline, two Wheeler like flies on a carc, everything is dried and brown without greenery. Roads are narrow that cannot imilate the number of vehicles. It is a jungle out there. Narrow roads reveal the narrow mindedness. An example of illiteracy.
        1. R
          Jan 14, 2016 at 2:55 pm
          Great work by the team involved. Kudos !! But 25 kms stretch with 22 stations, seriously ??
          1. R
            Jan 14, 2016 at 2:59 pm
            If you dont agree to someone's view point they qualify to be called fools is it ??
            1. R
              Jan 14, 2016 at 11:52 am
              CONgis tried their best to keep Sreedharan out of the project. Protests from people and the opposition led to him being included. But now we see the shameless CONgis taking credit for Sreedharan's work.
              1. R
                Jan 14, 2016 at 11:54 am
                Doesnt the metro run through wilderness? Kerala is one large jungle of villages anyway.
                1. C
                  chatur lingam
                  Aug 1, 2017 at 4:35 am
                  aap ke ghar mein bhi ek junglee billi hogi..aap bhi to wilderness se used honge
                2. R
                  Jan 14, 2016 at 11:53 am
                  Metro is not for ordinary people, you fool. Metro is more expensive than bus. What you mean is that you personally can afford metro but not bullet train.
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