Agency reluctant to operate boats to Fort Kochi jetty despite demand from passengers
The State Water Transport Department (SWTD) is gearing up to introduce circular ferry services from Ernakulam to West Kochi from Monday.
But none of the services will touch Kamalakadavu jetty, located next to Fort Kochi bus stand, despite growing demand from passengers in the sector. The department has been shy of operating trips to the jetty. It even went to the extent of stopping the ‘Green Express’ service that plied up to the jetty from Ernakulam till a few years ago, despite sound passenger patronage.
By availing of this service, regular passengers and tourists commuted from the city to the tourism hub in just around 15 minutes, since the boat was faster than regular ferries. With ferries now ending their trip at Customs Jetty, passengers are forced to either walk about 1 km up to Fort Kochi or take an autorickshaw.
The secretary of the West Kochi Passengers’ Association S. Padmanabha Mallya alleged that the SWTD stopped the Green Express service to help private bus operators.
“Commuters from Menaka could reach Fort Kochi within 15 minutes by paying Rs 5. Buses take over an hour and charge over Rs 12.” He demanded that the SWTD speed up repair of boats so that more boats can be pressed into service, especially during peak hours.
Asked why the SWTD is not operating services up to Kamalakadavu, its director Shaji B. Nair said that newer boat services could be extended up to the jetty.
“A study by National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC) is underway on the feasibility of operating boats from Ernakulam Jetty to more places. Apart from the possible passenger patronage, the study will cover the need for more jetties and deepening of shallow canals.”
Responding to the passenger association’s allegation that circular services are being introduced to pull out two ferries from service to be operated from Vyttila Mobility Hub to Kakkanad, Mr. Nair said this is not required since a new boat for operating in the sector will be ready by Onam.
The commencement of circular services from Monday will increase the number of times boats call at Fort Kochi, Mattancherry and Willingdon Island boat jetties. “While it will help commuters, the ‘steering hours’ (number of hours) that employees operate boats will see a marginal increase. This will help ensure optimal fleet utilisation,” Mr Nair said.
An SWTD official at the Ernakulam boat jetty said that circular trips have been planned in such a way that there are more services during morning and evening peak hours.
“All the ferries will ply clockwise. There will be slight change in timings of a few services. Passengers from Willingdon Island will benefit since all but two peak hour trips will call at the boat jetty there.”
Though officials say that circular services will ply from all boat jetties every 15 minutes during peak hours, passenger bodies have for long been demanding services every 10 minutes or even lesser.