The Kochi Metro Rail project on Friday suffered a setback with its Director Board stating that the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) must decide for itself whether it should take up the project.

This is being seen as the latest roadblock to handing over the work to the DMRC, with E. Sreedharan as its Principal Adviser. It will also further delay the kick-starting of the work, which would, in turn, worsen congestion on roads and lead to escalation of the cost of the project mooted in 2004, which ought to have been commissioned in 2009.

Union Urban Development Secretary and DMRC chairman Sudhir Krishna, who chaired the Board meeting of Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) in Kochi on Friday, told the media that the Board’s decision follows a decision taken by the DMRC earlier this week that the consent of its Director Board was a must for any metro project that the agency took up outside Delhi.

The KMRL and a couple of Ministers had earlier expressed reservations about handing over the project to the DMRC, citing what they termed as “objections raised by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)”. They had even said that the State government would prevail over the CVC to ensure that the DMRC undertook the work. The decision taken at Friday’s KMRL Board meeting has come as a shock to those who were keen on having the project on track at the earliest. Mr. Krishna refused to comment on Mr. Sreedharan’s letter sent to the KMRL and Transport Minister in which he reportedly mentioned that the DMRC would back out of the project if a firm decision on handing over the work to it was not taken at the Board meeting. To a question on what the KMRL would do to convince Mr. Sreedharan, Mr Krishna told mediapersons to pose the question to Mr Sreedharan. He added that both the DMRC, which he chairs, and the KMRL are “like two eyes for us”.

On Mr. Sreedharan’s concern about the project cost escalating by over Rs. 40 lakh a day owing to delay in decision making, Mr. Krishna said one cannot be oblivious to different technical options. “We are keen to have speedy, sustainable options for the metro,” he said.

Elaborating about the deliberations at the Board, Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar, a member, said the State government stood by its decision to entrust the work to the DMRC. “The KMRL Board could not take a decision because of the DMRC’s Director Board decision. Now let’s hear from the DMRC, which has Mr. Krishna as chairman. The project’s land acquisition and preparatory works will go on sans delay.”

Revisit DPR

Mr Krishna spoke of how Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd had offered to revisit free of cost, the Kochi Metro’s detailed project report prepared by the DMRC in 2005 and updated in 2011, “so that the latest technological changes can be imbibed”. This would be looked into by the sub-committee formed for the purpose (with KMRL MD Elias George as the chairman). There is a suggestion that overhead electric lines be relocated to the rails, as the third traction. Though costlier, this has got many benefits. Another proposal is to straighten curves along the metro alignment so that they have a curvature of 120 metres, he said.

The width of coaches and their number (in each rake) too will be revisited. The delegation of more powers to the KMRL’s MD (for which another sub-committee was formed) and the DMRC’s role in the project too will be discussed.

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