By the end of 2019, a fleet of modern, electric-powered air-conditioned ferries will lend much-needed heft to the transportation network in Kochi, Kerala’s biggest city and it’s financial capital.
The project, titled ‘Kochi Water Metro’, was envisaged in 2016 as an attempt to connect the suburbs in Greater Kochi that lie on the banks of the Vembanad Lake with the mainland through numerous inland water channels. Around 1 lakh people, living in suburbs like Kumbalam, Aroor, Thoppumpady, Cheranallur, Mattanchery, Fort Kochi, Thevara, Kakkanad and Varapuzha would be able to commute to the city by the ferries. Water transport experts saw immense potential in these channels with a special focus on tourism as well. They argued that if ferries were to be introduced on these routes, it will not only release the pressure on the already-clogged road networks, it will bring more domestic and foreign tourists to these scenic backwater locations. At present, the state-run water transport department runs limited services to locations like Willingdon Island, Fort Kochi, Vypin and Kumbalam.
Helmed by the Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL), the project will act as a unique feeder system to the existing elevated metro rail line that runs from the outer suburb of Aluva, through the heart of Kochi to Thripunithura. At present, the metro line ends at Maharaja’s College in Kochi, with expansion works in the process.
At a press conference at the KMRL headquarters in Kochi, APM Mohammed Hanish, the managing director, confirmed that the water metro project will indeed set sail in December, 2019 with 23 ferries as part of the first phase. These ferries can seat up to 100 passengers and will connect 38 boat jetties on 16 different routes. Additionally, in subsequent phases, 55 boats with a passenger capacity of 50 will be rolled into commercial operation. The modern, state-of-the-art ferries with WiFi access, will have a steel body and an aluminium hull. These ferries will gradually be powered by solar energy in the future.
Hanish said that a major bottleneck – financial aid for land acquisition worth Rs 72 crores from private individuals for the construction of terminals – was cleared at a recent meeting attended by the state’s chief secretary. The project is being financed with Rs 102 crores from the Kerala government and a loan of Rs 576 crores from German development bank KfW.