Proposal to operate water buses on city’s waterways to be submitted to Centre

Navigable waterways in and around the city will buzz with faster and more comfortable boats in 2014, since Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) has readied a Rs 40-crore project for the purpose. “The proposal to operate water buses will soon be submitted to Union Urban Development Ministry to source JNNURM funds and a formal nod is expected within three months. Work on procuring the boats can begin by March,” said Elias George, MD of KMRL and Chairman of Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA). He was speaking at a function organised here to flag off State Water Transport Department’s (SWTD) Vyttila Mobility Hub-Kakkanad boat service.

“Our aim is to introduce catamaran-type fibre-reinforced-plastic boats, which are delivered within a few months of the order being placed. Being lighter and faster than steel boats, they can cover the Vyttila-Kakkanad distance in 12 minutes,” Mr George said.

In his inaugural address, Union Minister of State for Food and Public Distribution K.V. Thomas said that Kerala’s water transport sector must be brought out of the red. “The Kollam-Kottapuram National Waterway III has tremendous potential to transport cargo.”

Kochi Metro alone might not be able to decongest the city. Long-pending flyovers and overbridges must be realised. Townships can be built in city suburbs like either side of Container Road, he said.

SWTD’s director Shaji V. Nair spoke of the key role played by water transport in lessening distance and commuting time. “Boats cover hub-Kakkanad distance in 20 minutes, whereas buses take 45 minutes.” Tripunithura Municipal Chairman V. Venugopal demanded a boat service from Poothotta to the city, since buses take over 90 minutes to cover the 22-km distance. “Proper boat jetties with ample parking space must be built on the way to Kakkanad. SWTD must also recruit 15 crew members to man the sister vessel that is ready to operate in hub-Kakkanad sector,” said Benny Behanan, MLA. Media persons too were taken along in the maiden journey to Kakkanad, which was covered in 25 minutes.

The boat was received at Eroor by cheerful residents. People residing on either side of the water body up to Kakkanad waved as a pair of boats made their maiden trip.

Both the boats (one will be kept as a spare boat at present) were built by Steel Industries Limited-Kerala and cost Rs 52 lakh apiece.

Each can carry 50 passengers and 10 two-wheelers. The per head fare is Rs 8, while that for each two-wheeler is Rs 25. The average speed is six knots (10 km per hour).

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