The Goshree Islands Development Authority (GIDA) is expected to roll out modern doubledecker boats from the city to the Goshree Islands andWest Kochi.

There is a way out of Kochi’s rush-hour snarl-up — waterways. And the stakeholders are ready to take a plunge to exploit the underused waterways in Kochi to pave the path for a faster, safer and comfortable commute.

Hopes are pinned on the integration of Kochi Metro Rail and road transport with water transport at Edapally and Vytilla. This would allow commuters to choose a convenient mode of transport from the two major junctions to Kakkanad, Thevara, West Kochi, Marine Drive etc...

GIDA ferries soon

The Goshree Islands Development Authority (GIDA) is expected to roll out modern double-decker boats from the city to the Goshree Islands and West Kochi. “The terminal to berth them will be ready by March in the Goshree-Chatiath Road (near Pachalam) and 23 routes have been identified,” a source said.

The agency has called tenders to buy boats and is awaiting State government’s approval. A pilot study is on the anvil to find out the expected passenger patronage and the ticket fare.

The agency’s first ferry-cum-tourist boat service will ply in the city-Vypeen-Fort Kochi-Bolghatty Island-city circular route. It will accommodate 50 passengers in the lower deck and 20 in the air-conditioned upper floor. GIDA’s boats will have a speed of up to 10 knots (18 km per hour) in shorter routes and an even higher speed in longer routes like Varapuzha.

Sources said GIDA believes there was huge potential to operate ferries from the city to other areas. “The promotion of inland water transport is a priority in our master plan since water transport incurs the least operational expense.”

The State government recently took steps to restore navigation through the Edapally Canal. Though initially hesitant, the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) is now open to the idea of plying boats in newer routes from Kochi.

Water transport has been considered as a fast, economical, eco-friendly and energy-efficient mode of transport. The accident rate is very low and the waterways demand little maintenance, unlike roads.

A senior official in the SWTD said the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission was flush with funds to promote public transport. “It is high time modern boats – ones that have minimal height and a wider hull — were introduced in Kochi.”

The existing ferries to West Kochi must be replaced with faster ones, said S K Pyarelal, former head of Cusat’s Ship Technology Department. He said excessive noise and vibration from the engine – common in many boats in use in Kochi — can be reduced through a proper marriage of the engine, propeller and the hull.

An official associated with waterway transport said oil companies must earmark a portion of corporate social responsibility funds to promote the water transport.

City-airport waterway

The proposed plan to ply ferries from the city to the international airport by extending Periyar is yet to take off because of technical reasons and opposition from environment groups.

“The main problem is that boats will have to wait for long at the sluice gates, which will be necessary to prevent the intrusion of saline water into the river,” sources said.

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