The alleged dormant functioning of the Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority (KMTA) despite worsening traffic hold-ups in the city and its suburbs has given rise to concern from different quarters.
Stakeholders in the public transport sector have been expressing their angst at the agency, the first such authority in India to be formed with legislative backing, entering a ‘hibernating mode’, within a few months of its launch on Kerala Day (November 1) in 2020. The agency is being blamed for not stepping in with remedial measures despite the city getting engulfed in traffic hold-ups caused partly due to haphazard parking, rampant encroachments into junctions, roads and footpaths.
Terming this as worrisome, State general secretary of Residents Associations’ Coordination Council (RACO) Kuruvila Mathews said the launch of KMTA was a dream project that aimed to bring under one umbrella different modes of commute. “The aim was to streamline their movement in the Greater Kochi area, with emphasis on different modes of public transport. Sadly, neither the agency nor the State government seemed keen to realise the objectives.”
Apt examples are the failure of three of the four flyovers at Edappally, Vyttila and Kundannoor in decongesting the NH Bypass. Subsequently, commuters have been complaining of taking over an hour to cross the 10-km Kundannoor-Edappally stretch. The delay in getting Southern Railway’s sanction for an integrated coaching terminal having a dozen platforms in 100-acre railway land in Ponnurunni is another example. The second phase development of Vyttila Mobility Hub (VMH), which held the promise of decongesting the city, too is in limbo, although the KMTA’s CEO heads VMH Society.
Informed sources said the KMTA failed to live up to its expectations due to indecision, lack of clarity in prioritising transportation infrastructure and projects and inadequate number of personnel. “Barring the CEO, the agency is left with just two officials who have not been paid salary for about six months. Decisions are still being taken in Thiruvananthapuram, defeating the very purpose of delegating powers to the autonomous body. Officials in the State capital treat KMTA as just another ‘government agency’. In addition, the merger of Unified Metropolitan Transportation Authority (UMTA), an agency which had KMRL’s MD as its chairman, with KMTA is incomplete.
In addition, many members of its Director Board have little idea of the purpose the agency was formed. Neither are they aware of the KMTA Act. All this has resulted in the office that the agency rented in Revenue Tower for ₹85,000 per month idling, they said.