In Kerala’s financial hub of Kochi, efforts to stitch together a seamless transportation network are finding results. Spurred by the introduction of the Metro system last year, officials and union leaders are now coming together to present a model that will provide commuters with faster, interlinked transportation options. Additionally, with the Metro dealing a serious blow to their revenue, it was important for bus and autorickshaw unions to actually devise strategies to stem their losses.
On Tuesday, over 15,000 autorickshaws in the city were brought under a single umbrella through a Joint Declaration of Intent (JDI) between the auto rickshaw driver’s unions and the Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL). Six warring unions, affiliated with different political parties, of rickshaw drivers, signed the JDI.
The plan is to integrate the auto rickshaws with the Metro system, creating a feeder network for the people. One of the problems often cited by people is the inability in accessing the Metro as the stations are all located along the national highway from Aluva to Ernakulam. With the rickshaws providing feeder, hire and rental services along key routes, the problem of last-mile connectivity will be sorted.
“It’s perhaps the first time in the country that a formalization of auto rickshaw drivers is being attempted which along with the bus societies formation will improve operational efficiency and thereby better working hours, working conditions and wages,” said Mohammad Hanish, MD, KMRL in a statement.
Last year, the KMRL was instrumental in signing yet another landmark agreement. It encouraged private bus owners to unite under Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP) so as to cut down on operational losses and keep a check on the issuance of counterfeit tickets and unauthorized student passes. Buying spare parts in bulk was also one of the added benefits. At the end of detailed deliberations over months, seven such LLPs were formed last year with nearly 1,000 buses operating in the Greater Kochi area as partners. These LLPs, forming a coordination committee, signed a JDI with KMRL so as to streamline routes and act as feeder network to the Metro. Bus owners’ coming together also ended the hazardous and unruly competition on the city’s roads which have claimed many victims in the past.
In the months to come, ambitious plans are laid out to improve the transport infrastructure in Kochi. Through an app, buses will be live-tracked using GPS wherein commuters at each bus stop/station can be informed about the route number, expected time of arrival and the running status (on time/late) of each bus operating in the city. On-board passenger information systems are also set to be installed as per plans. In phase 2 of the project, the GPS facility will be extended to the 600 government buses operating within city limits.
The water metro project, in which over 75 modern, air-conditioned ferries will connect the city with neighbouring islands, is also in full swing with the first lot of boats set to be operational by next year. Proposed by KMRL, it will be the ideal feeder service to the metro especially for people travelling from the islands to the city for work.