The first batch of four Water Metro ferries, being built at the Cochin Shipyard, is getting ready for commercial operations from the year-end, and December 25 has been set as the tentative target for the launch, Loknath Behera, Managing Director of Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL), has said.
The ferries will kick off operations in the Vypin-Bolghatty-High Court-Eloor-Cheranalloor corridor among other routes.
The contracting firm has been directed to complete work on jetties at different locales, including at Fort Kochi, since the Ernakulam-Fort Kochi route is considered the highest-in-demand route. Among them, the High Court Jetty would be the biggest and the most important of the lot, Mr. Behera told The Hindu.
The assurance of a tangible deadline comes in the midst of the metro agency and the shipyard facing considerable flak for the frequent shifting of deadlines, dating back to December 2020, for Water Metro ferries to begin commercial operations. A total of twenty-three 50-seater ferries have been conceived in the first phase of the project.
The first ferry, which was reportedly encountering a technical glitch, has not begun sea trials. It is still undergoing basin trials, it is learnt.
“Being an entirely new project and one-of-its-kind in the country, technical glitches are possible. This must not deter stakeholders in any way, although the Centre and many others are critical of the delay. Stakeholders will gain confidence when they overcome the challenge. The shipyard is doing a good job and consulting experts, following which the glitch could be sorted out in another 10 to 15 days,” said Mr. Behera.
The first ferry will be handed over to KMRL by the month-end for doing trial runs in different routes. The ferries operate with LTO batteries, considered the safest among batteries, and they can be recharged within 15 minutes. It would be the first time in the world that electric boats were being operating under a centralised control centre as an urban transport system, said metro sources.
On public transport enthusiasts and NGOs terming the Water Metro’s fare structure as unaffordable to most commuters, Mr. Behera said fares would be rationalised, so that the poor and marginalised sections of society, including those living on the islands that the ferries would network, benefit from the project. “This is also crucial to ensure that they operate with full capacity of passengers,” he added.
Aimed at expediting the process to commence the operation of ferries, it has been decided that officials will avail the waterway route to inspect all the jetties envisaged in the Greater Kochi area. “Such site visits will convince islanders and other members of the public that we are serious about the project,” he said.