Chennai: The Kochi Metro, touted as ‘dream project’ of Kerala government on Saturday, commenced its run with Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking the inaugural ride from Palarivattom to Pathadipalam, a five-km stretch.
The PM was accompanied by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Union Urban Development Minister, Venkaiah Naidu, Governor P Sathasivam and officials. Thereon at a function organized at Kaloor Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Modi launched the Kochi Metro.
While addressing the gathering after formally inaugurating the project, Modi said fifty cities in India are ready to implement metro rail projects.
A number of initiatives have been taken by the Centre to enhance public transport particularly in the cities. Foreign investment has been invited in this sector.
Stating that the economic and social benefits of metro rail systems are well-known, Modi noted that the Centre has speeded up policy formulation in this sector. Recently, the Centre has standardised the specifications for rolling stock and signalling systems of metro rail. This will encourage manufacturers to set-up manufacturing facilities in India with a long-term perspective. In line with the Make in India vision, efforts are being made to promote domestic manufacture of metro rolling stock.
Mentioning that the Kochi metro project has several significant features, Modi said it is the first metro project to be commissioned with a modern signalling system called the “Communication Based Train Control Signalling system”.
“I am informed that this Kochi-1 Card is a multi-purpose pre-paid contact-less RuPay card, which can be used to travel in the metro and also like a normal debit card. Kochi will be one of the few cities in the world and the first in India to have a modern open-loop Smart Card, which can be used with other modes of transport like buses, taxies and autos as well,” he said.
The occasion, also set in motion, a controversy as BJP state president Kummanom Rajasekharan joined the Prime Minister’s delegation in the inaugural Metro ride, which the local media reported as violation of protocol, particularly in the light of strict restriction imposed by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on the number of invitees for the inaugural function.
E Sreedharan steals the show
‘Metro Man’ E.Sreedharan appears to have become so popular in a short time in his native state. He got the loudest applause from the gathering as KMRL MD, Elias George in his welcome address mentioned his name saying that it would have been not possible to complete the project in time without the support of Sreedharan. Venkaiah Naidu reminded that Kochi Metro is the ‘fastest Metro completed in a record time.’
It may be recalled that Keralites, by and large, were united in supporting Sreedharan when PMO initially declined to include him as one of the invitees to share the dais with PM. Sreedharan and opposition leader Chennithala were included after the intervention of the State government.