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Six years on, Kochi Metro to see faster progress now

George Joseph  |  Chennai/ Kochi 

Though the proposal for Kochi Metro rail connecting Aluva with Petta (Thripunithura) was mooted in 2005, even the foundation stone laying has been lagging for the last six years.

The first stretch of Bangalore Metro (Namma Metro), which was also moot-ed around the same time, was inaugura-ted last week, Kochi is still limping far behind. Though the demolition work of the north railway overbridge, essential for the work on the Metro, has commenced two weeks back, there is no clear vision on the part of the Central and the state governments, especially on the investment side.

At the latest, the Centre is expected to give a nod to the project as the Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy is parleying his best to make the venture a Centre–state joint venture. Earlier, the Planning Commission reversed its position on Union government's investment in the project and gave an in-principle nod. It is learnt that the Ministry of Urban Development is in favour of implementing the project in line with the Chennai Metro, which will be a Centre-state JV.

Six years ago, when the Kochi Metro project was proposed, the Union government was in favour of implementing the project with private participation, ruling out its own financial involvement. Even the Ministry of Urban Development and the Planning Commission were not in favour of government investment in the project, and refused to accept it as a project in line with the Delhi and Chennai metros.

The political rivalry between the Left Front government in Kerala and the UPA government at the Centre was a major reason for such developments and the slow down in the project. The change in government in Kerala has changed that scenario, making the Kochi Metro one of the top priorities of the UDF government.

There is a sea change in the Centre's attitude and now a major shift in the investment pattern of the project is expected. The Centre's clearance is expected in a month's time as a team of Kerala ministers, led by the Chief minister parleyed for the project during their recent visit to Delhi.

The cost of the project has now been revised to Rs 5,146 crore from Rs 1,186 crore six years ago. The state government now demands that the project be implemented in line with the Chennai and Delhi metro models. Both the projects were Centre-state joint ventures without private participation. During the LDF regime, the idea was to implement the project through private participation. But the implementation of such a model is rather difficult as the breakeven of the project might extend for years.

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is the consultant and the executing agency for Kochi Metro. The demolition work of the North overbridge is now fast progressing and the traffic through this is partially diverted. The traffic will be diverted fully once the construction begins. This will be the difficult part of the construction as North over bridge is the busiest passage in Kochi city.

Now the commissioning of the 27 km stretch is expected by 2016 if everything goes as per schedule. But there are pending issues with the project including land acquisition in some parts of the proposed line.

The Kerala cabinet gave clearance to the Kochi metro, replacing Konkan Railway Corporation-backed Skybus project. In Phase-1 of the project, there will be 26 stations. The second phase includes an extension of the service to the Kochi International airport at Nedumbassery, a distance of 8 km and towards Kakkanad, the IT hub of Kerala, diverting from Palarivattam.

First Published: Tue, October 25 2011. 00:36 IST