Connectivity issues ailing boat service

Low patronage for Vyttila-Kakkanad service in the absence of feeder facility

The sole service between Vyttila and Kakkanad continues to bleed the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) financially as the expenses far outweigh the revenue generated thanks to poor patronage.

Though the service remains suspended for a week now owing to the annual maintenance work on the boat, the fact that none has really missed it tells a tale. The service is set to resume on Monday.

The service was launched between Vyttila and Chittethukara with much fanfare in 2014 and was even popular for a brief while, especially with the Infopark-based techies thanks mainly to the free feeder service operated by Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL). However, it changed the moment KMRL withdrew the feeder service owing to audit objections, and things have steadily gone downhill since then.

Hardly a fraction of the boat with capacity to carry up to 100 passengers gets filled up during most of its 16 services a day except for the average occupancy during peak hours. The service needs around 100 litres of diesel, besides the daily wages of five workers.

“While the daily collections hover in the region of ₹2,500 to ₹3,000, the expenses almost breach ₹10,000. However, we are not driven by profit motive and hence continue to operate it as a service,” said M. Sujith, traffic superintendent, SWTD, Ernakulam region.

Poor connectivity

The absence of connectivity from Chittethukara to Kakkanad and Infopark remains the single biggest bane of the service, driving away potential passengers, including those from the Vyttila Mobility Hub who otherwise would have preferred it to the heavily congested roads.

“We have for long been demanding the extension of the service to Infopark. Till then, a feeder service can be deployed from Chittethukara, and techies will be more than willing to pay for it,” said Aneesh Panthalani, president, Progressive Techies, a combine of IT employees.

Meanwhile, KMRL is planning to connect the Vyttila-Kakkanad stretch under its ambitious Water Metro project. “The route will be served in the first phase of the project, and work on the boat jetty has already started. The plan is to kick-start the project towards the end of this year,” said KMRL sources.

Notwithstanding Water Metro services, the SWTD may have to continue with its service at a much affordable rate.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 5:54:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/connectivity-issues-ailing-boat-service/article30597210.ece

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