Updates from : the Hindu :
Fleet of 78 air-conditioned ferries to be operated on solar power by 2021; special card planned to encourage tourists to use Water Metro
A total of 23 air-conditioned ferries that can carry 100 passengers will commence operation in December 2019 under the Rs. 750-crore Water Metro project, linking 19 boat terminals in the Greater Kochi area, Kochi Metro Rail Limited managing director A.P.M. Mohammed Hanish said.
The rest of the 55 ferries, each with a passenger capacity of 50, will be introduced by 2020-end under the project which is the first of its kind in Asia. The ferries will thus traverse over 76 km, covering 16 routes in the backwaters surrounding Kochi, primarily benefiting people residing in islands and the coastal belt with better livelihood options. A total of 38 terminals will be built, with provision to add seven more.
The Water Metro’s total fleet of 78 WiFi-enabled electric-powered ferries will completely shift to solar power by 2021 to bring about net-zero carbon footprint. Electricity charging points will be set up at the terminals. The modern ferries can navigate at up to 10 knots (18 kmph) speed which is more than double the speed of ferries now in operation. The ferries will take much less time than buses that cover the same route, Mr. Hanish told reporters here on Monday.
A meeting in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday, chaired by Chief Secretary Tom Jose, further decided that orders to procure the ferries would be issued in the first week of February. The ferries will have aluminium hull and fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) body.
Each 100-seater ferry will cost Rs. 4.50 crore, while each 50-seater ferry has been priced at Rs. 2.60 crore.
KMRL will float a subsidiary company as special purpose vehicle (SPV) to take care of the operation and maintenance of the fleet, terminals, and related initiatives.
On its part, the State government will recommend to the Centre to include the Water Metro in the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME) project which may also get tax exemption like the Kochi metro.
German Bank KfW will provide Rs. 576 crore, while the State government will grant Rs. 102 crore as loan for the project. The meeting further decided that the State would give administrative approval for Rs. 72 crore for land acquisition.
The State government will also take steps to grant viability-gap funding through the Transport Department to the Water Metro. Its boat yards will be at Thevara where KSINC and KURTC have land and three acres of KINFRA land in Kakkanad.
Mr. Hanish said there were two major issues while extending the ferry network to Infopark and the Smart City region. The Brahmapuram bridge has a vertical clearance of only 2.25 metres which is inadequate for ferries.
Saturday’s meeting decided to demolish the bridge and construct a new structure which will have 5.50-m vertical clearance at a cost of Rs. 30 crore. The Chief Secretary has recommended a detailed study on shifting the bund at Kadambrayar.
Narrow roads leading to ferry terminals will be widened, while public transport modes will be augmented to ensure seamless integration between road transport and the waterway corridor.
A special card will be introduced under initiatives like A day’s tour of Kochi to encourage tourists to use the Water Metro.
Government bodies will give permissive sanction to use their land abutting waterbodies to construct terminals.
Additional Chief Secretary T.K. Jose said the Kerala Municipal Building Rules and the Kerala Panchayat Building Rules would provide exemptions as was given to the Kochi metro for construction of ferry terminals.