KMRL to chip in for mobility hub expansion

KOCHI: Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) will draw up a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the second phase of the Vyttila Mobility Hub (VMH) development.

A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting of the Vyttila Mobility Hub Society (VMHS) held here on Tuesday. A meeting of the officials of VMHS and KMRL to fine-tune the broad contours of the project is likely to be held shortly.

VMHS may opt for the loan offered by Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) for the long delayed second phase development of the hub, though a final decision hinges on the DPR.

A proposal that came up during the tenure of the previous UDF government to fund the ₹430-crore project through Public Private Participation (PPP) mode was shelved as no investor evinced interest in it owing to feasibility concerns.

A ray of hope emerged when AFD, which funds the metro rail project, expressed willingness to offer loan for the VMH project as part of developing integrated multi-model transport systems. What makes the offer attractive is the rather rock-bottom interest rate of 1.35 % and a repayment window of 20 years after a five-year moratorium. The only concern is the susceptibility of interest rate to international currency fluctuations, sources said.

Hibi Eden, MLA, found the AFD loan offer almost equivalent to a grant with its very low interest rate. “Considering the critical importance of the development of VMH in the larger transportation plans of the city ranging from flyover to the Kochi metro rail expansion, no more time should be wasted in forming a special purpose vehicle for the project. Often, VMHS was given as additional charge to officials, leaving it out of their top priority. Hence, it is important to put an official exclusively in charge of it,” he said.

The governing body had also decided to make the VMH project transportation-specific rather than commerce-centric. D. Dhanuraj, chairman of Kochi-based think-tank Centre for Public Policy Research, which had been associated with VMH from its very inception, felt it was the right approach. “Often commercial structures are built before fixing mobility and transportation plans, defeating the very purpose of the projects,” he said.

“The Kochi Corporation should be able to generate revenue on its own for infrastructure projects like VMH. The operation of the hub should be gradually taken over by the proposed Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority,” Mr. Dhanuraj added.

Since the commissioning of its first phase in February 2011, the project had made no progress whatsoever with the mode of development and funding pattern being a never-ending debating point.

The idea at the time of the commissioning of the project was to turn it into a full-fledged terminal-cum-hub for inter-modal (road, metro-rail, railways, and waterways) transport by March, 2013, with capacity to handle up to 2,000 buses every hour.

Now, the hub has 13 bus bays to park 42 buses, while the objective is to develop a terminal with 139 bays for city services, converting the existing terminal into one for interstate services.

The second phase development should ideally have parking facility for not less than 1,000 two-wheelers and 800 four-wheelers as was initially planned. Fifteen acres are available with VMHS, making land availability a non-issue for the project.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2020 6:18:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/KMRL-to-chip-in-for-mobility-hub-expansion/article17264077.ece

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