PM skirts mention on Rs 2,577-crore phase-2 proposal with Centre.
Kochi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday unveiled Kochi Metro along the 13.5-km stretch from Aluva to Palarivattom, which was completed in record time for a similar track system in the country. The Rs 5,000-cr-odd first phase extends up to Petta. The formal kickoff was after Mr Modi and other VIPs took a round trip from Palarivattom station to Pathadippalam, 10 km in about 15 minutes. On the ride, Mr Modi was accompanied by Governor P. Sathasivam, Union Surface Transport Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Metroman E. Sreedharan, KMRL managing director Elias George and Chief Secretary Nalini Netto.
The on-board presence of BJP State president Kummanam Rajasekharan later touched off a row. The inauguration at 11 am, though behind schedule by 30 minutes, was lustily cheered by a 3,500-strong audience at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium as lakhs of people sat glued to TV across the State, cherishing a long-held dream for the State’s congested commercial hub. The crowd clapped whenever Mr Sreedharan was mentioned. Clad in an aqua marine blue colored kurta in sync with the theme of Kochi Metro (the front and rear with palm leaf light colour), Mr Modi lauded Kochi for this “proud moment, after being a Smart City in round one of the challenge process in January 2016”.
The monsoon sky was overcast but the drizzle of the early hours had ebbed, lending the right ambience to breathe life into a long-cherished project of Kochi, famously called the Queen of the Arabian Sea. Metro tracks spring hope for Kochiites, who will start enjoying the ride on the state-of-the coaches from Monday. Mr Modi, however, disappointed Kochiites by not even mentioning the Rs 2,577-crore second phase of Kochi Metro from Kaloor Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to Kakkanad, the proposal for which is already pending with the Centre.
(Kerala Cabinet had on last May 17 given administrative sanction for the second phase of the Kochi Metro, having a distance of 11.17 km. KMRL has asked RITES to review the current alignment due to protests by residents. The approval is delayed amid the new Central policy that Metros can only be on PPP mode) Mr Modi also did not announce any other projects or assistance either for the city or the state in his inaugural speech even though Mr Vijayan in his speech flagged the State’s appreciation for the Centre’s positive approach to the State’s development.
“Kochi, the queen of Arabian Sea, is an important spice trading centre. Today it is known as the commercial capital of Kerala. Kochi ranks first in the total number of international and domestic tourist arrivals in Kerala. Hence it is fitting that Kochi should have a Metro rail facility,” the prime minister said. He noted that the city’s population has been rising steadily, and was expected to reach 23 lakh by 2021. Therefore, a mass rapid transport system was essential to address the increasing pressure on urban infrastructure which would also contribute to Kochi’s economic growth. He also pointed out that Kochi Metro Rail Limited is a 50:50 joint venture by the Centre and Kerala. The union government had released over Rs 2,000 crore for the Rs 5181-crore first phase of the project, which ends in Petta.
Elaborating on the several unique features of Kochi Metro, he said it integrates the city’s entire public transportation network into a single system and has pioneered an innovative PPP model for ticketing. It has selected 1,000 women and 23 transgenders for work. The project is also environment-friendly by rooting for renewable energy sources. “Thanks to France and Alstom, the company that made the train coaches. Coaches reflect ‘Make in India’ vision. They have been built by Alstom near Chennai, and have an Indian component of around 70 percent,” the prime minister said. Foreign investment has been invited in this sector. Fifty cities in India are ready to implement Metro rail projects. The inaugural function was also attended by Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala, Mayor Soumini Jain and Prof K.V. Thomas MP.