With Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating India’s first driverless train operation in Delhi Metro’s Magenta Line on Monday, there is demand that Kochi metro too go for driverless operations.
“Kochi metro was the first in the country to roll out Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) system, which enables driverless train operations. Lahore Metro in Pakistan is yet another metro rail system which opted for driverless operations. In this circumstance, technical and safety measures must be vetted, if need be by the Commissioner for Metro Rail Safety (CMRS) after the systems are readied and trial runs are done,” said Ebenser Chullikat, public transport enthusiast.
“Kochi Metro Rail Limited’s website speaks of driverless train operations in the future. It is a proven technology. This will in the long run make Kochi metro operate trains more frequently if needed, say at the rate of a train every 1.5 minutes, as compared to a train every seven minutes headway now. It will also help curtail expenses, especially so since KMRL recorded ₹310-crore loss in the last fiscal,” he said.
Mr. Chullikat also sought measures to do away with BPA tickets, citing that frequent exposure to them has potential implications on the health of commuters and personnel who man metro stations. “Its use was discontinued in many countries. Relying on it also creates waste and littering as is seen in the vicinity of many metro stations. Moreover, recycling is tough since it has chemicals. Doing away with them will also lessen need for printers and allied machinery at ticket counters. Instead, store value cards which do not need submission of KYC documents must be promoted. Another alternative is to promote chip-embedded tokens, as is being done in many other metro rail systems. This will be in sync with the circular economy that KMRL recently proposed.”
The metro agency must encourage digital payment of fare, by wooing commuters who have not purchased Kochi-1 smart card. This will encourage people who earn less than ₹15,000 per month as salary to commute by metro. The regular patronage enjoyed by short-distance trains is an example, he added.
Responding to the suggestions, Managing Director of KMRL Alkesh Kumar Sharma said that systemic changes would be needed for driverless operation of trains. “The CBTC system alone is not enough. Driverless operation can perhaps be tried out in impending extensions like to Kakkanad.”
On BPA tickets, he said they were important in the current pandemic situation. “Relying on tokens as tickets could result in spread of the pandemic, since the same token would change many hands. For this reason, tokens are being discarded by many metros. Moreover, we have taken steps to enable contactless issue of QR-coded tickets. Commuters can avail of the QR-coded tickets online too,” he said.