Kochi Metro leading the rail transformation in India

Loknath Behera, Managing Director, Kochi Metro Rail Limited

Kochi Metro is the first Metro to employ a large number of women at the grass root level for facility management, ticketing, and driving the trains. Women power is on display in Kochi Metro. Shri Loknath Behera, Managing Director, Kochi Metro Rail Limited, highlights Kochi Metro’s transformation in an exclusive interview with Nisha Samant of Elets News Network (ENN).

With net-zero emission taking centre stage in policies and governance worldwide, the role of e-mobility becomes crucial. What are Kochi metro’s preparatory measures in this regard?

We have been mandated, both by the Central Government and the State Government, to depend more on e-mobility. Metro Rail itself is an e-mobility. So also the Water Metro, which will be launched soon. In addition to that, we are adding feeder services in the form of buses, rickshaws and autos, which are driven by electricity. We are also going in for Hydrogen mobility, which in a way is also an e-mobility. Our plan is to run more and more electric vehicles for First Mile & Last Mile Connectivity, and we want to integrate, ticket wise, all such public transport systems together with the metro ticket.

Beyond just transportation and commuting, Kochi Metro opens up a new way of life that encompasses people, nature and sustainable development. Shed some light as to how Kochi Metro stands out in the race?

Kochi Metro is the first Metro to employ a large number of women at the grass root level for facility management, ticketing; many women are also driving the trains. Women power is on display in Kochi Metro. We have also engaged members from the Transgender community, the 3rd sex, in office management. We have rationalised the tickets in a way so as to benefit a large section of the society with the idea `Travel more Pay less’. We arrange various programmes from education to science to cultural & social, to be part and parcel of the society. KMRL is for the people – we go with that.

Among metro rail, suburban rail and monorail, metro rail witnessed the fastest growth. From 222 km in three cities in 2011 to 752 km in 15 cities by 2022, it has really come a long way. Where do you see the future of metro rail in India?

In future, as per the scheme of the Government of India, there will be Metro Rails in 100 cities by 2047. Now various cities; small, medium & big, are all trying to put mass transport systems, mostly in the form of Metro Rail, but again, it will be like the Conventional Metro, Metrolite or Metro Neo, depending on the footfalls calculated through the Comprehensive Mobility Study and Alternate Traffic Analysis done by professional agencies. More and more cities will be adopting various types of Metro Rail in the coming future.

Although the mass rapid transport system (MRTS) was commissioned in 2017, adequate connectivity from metro stations remains a far cry and it has resulted in the annual revenue loss for KMRL. How do you plan to address this?

The First Mile and Last Mile Connectivity – to & from the Metro stations – is very crucial for increasing ridership. Once the ridership increases, the Fare Box revenue increases; so also the Non-Fare Box revenue, as most of the advertisement depends on the footfalls. If the footfalls are more, more advertisements come in. So our strategy in KMRL is to ensure the best First Mile and Last Mile Connectivity through e-mobility as mentioned earlier, coupled with e-mobility integration of the tickets, which is also being attempted to increase footfalls.

With French development agency AFD withdrawing from the project, uncertainty looms over Kochi Metro’s second phase development. What is the current status of the project?

We have no problem in mobilising funds for Phase-2. So the reported withdrawal of AFD will not have any impact on Phase-2.

How do you plan for intermodal integration of the public transport system?

Kochi is one of the most unique cities having a robust water transport system existing for thousands of years. The Water Metro is going to be a new entrant, bringing in modernity and sustainability. All other modes of public transport like the Metro Rail, public city buses, city auto rickshaws, taxis, bicycles, etc. are available in Kochi. The best part of transportation in Kochi is that, by using the waterways, one can reach many places inside the City. Apart from physical integration of the public transport system through the Non-Motorised Transport project of making footpaths connecting the Metro stations to encourage pedestrianisation, technology is being used to have one Ticket or a Card for all public transport systems. We have integrated the Metro Rail with the Water Metro so that one can use one Ticket or Card for both. We are now contemplating on QR code solutions for all the public transport systems so that the commuters travel without any hassle in any public transport system. A Proof Of Concept will be shown during this month and we want Kochi to be an example of a City with fully integrated intermodal public transport systems.

What is unique about the Water Metro?

Kochi City is surrounded by 11 populated islands. Vypeen is one of the most populous islands in India. The islanders travel every day between the mainland and the islands for various purposes including business, work, treatment, etc. Their transport has to be seamlessly connected to the main City of Kochi. Water Metro brings in a system which was uniquely thought of with state of the art Hybrid Electric Boats of 50 and 100-passenger capacity to shuttle between the mainland and the islands with short regular intervals, in the metro rail-like fashion. The same system of the AFC Gates & headways of the Metro Rail, with the Water Metro terminals similar to the Metro stations have been brought in; the Metro Rail runs on land whereas the Water Metro boats run on water. These boats are very uniquely designed and made. That is the most interesting speciality. The operation is fully centralised and electronically controlled.

What will KMRL do pertaining to Hydrogen Mobility?

The Government of Kerala has decided to run Hydrogen buses initially as feeder/City services in the City of Kochi, and KMRL has been chosen as the service provider considering the mandate given to KMRL to have an integrated sustainable public transport system. Budgetary provision has also been made by the Government of Kerala, thereby mandating to acquire Hydrogen buses and procure Green Hydrogen to run the buses in the City of Kochi. Initial negotiations with stakeholders have already been started. We have to run these buses provisionally during this financial year itself. That will have a paradigm shift in the concept of sustainable transport.

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