Planning Commission gives in-principle clearance to the over Rs.4,000-crore project

The proposed Kochi Metro Rail project is a step closer to realisation, with the Planning Commission on Thursday giving in-principle clearance to the mass-rapid mode of transport that was mooted over five years ago to decongest Kochi.

The Commission is expected to come out soon with its stance on how to raise funds for the project — whether the over Rs.4,000-crore project can be executed as a joint venture between the State and Central governments, as demanded by the State government and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), the project consultants. Another option will be to have private participation.

The State is opposed to private participation in the project since large tracts of land in Kochi will have to be handed over to the private partner for raising funds.

Chennai model

Speaking to The Hindu, Transport Secretary K.R. Jyotilal said that the Chennai metro-rail model would be ideal for the Kochi project. In Chennai, both the State and the Central governments are contributing 15 per cent each of the project cost, with the Centre's share coming to just over Rs.600 crore.

“The project is expected to get the final nod from the Centre when Chief Minister Oommen Chandy visits New Delhi on September 22 and 23,” said a senior DMRC official.

Managing Director of Kochi Metro Rail Limited Tom Jose welcomed the Planning Commission's decision on the project. “We are yet to get the details though. The Commission has to send its comments to the Union Urban Development Ministry, which is expected in another 10 days. The Ministry will, in turn, send a Cabinet note, based on which the Union Cabinet will take a final decision on the project.”

Land acquisition

He said that the clearances from Central departments will speed up land acquisition for the project. The tendering process for the elevated rails can begin once land acquisition is set in motion.

The preliminary works have already begun, with the DMRC beginning work on the Salim Rajan Road flyover that will provide a corridor parallel to the South overbridge. Work on other overbridge and crucial road-widening projects will be carried out in 14 months, aimed at easing traffic flow.

The State government has demanded the Chennai model for the project, where apart from the equal share contributed by the Central and State governments, 51 per cent of the project cost was raised as loan, 11 per cent as subordinate debt, five per cent from land and the balance three per cent as exemption from taxes.

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