Having faced considerable flak for the two-and-a-half-years’ delay in commissioning of the first batch of five Water Metro ferries, the Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) has sought speedy delivery of the fifth vessel from Cochin Shipyard, in order to adhere to the revised deadline of October-end to commission the fleet in the High Court-Bolghatty-Vypeen corridor.
The fifth vessel is expected to be handed over in a week and would be put to trial runs before joining the fleet in October. The jetties in the three locales are nearing completion, official sources said.
The original deadline of December 2019 to roll out the ferries for the ₹747 crore project to provide waterway connectivity for islands off Kochi with the mainland had been postponed to March 2020. It was subsequently postponed many times in the wake of travel curbs and delay in procuring spares from abroad due to the pandemic, and technical glitches that the hybrid ferries encountered in the early stages. Moreover, the Water Metro project had to wait till October 2019 to get environmental sanction.
The initial technical woes could be expected since the 23 ferries from among the total 78 envisaged under the project are one of its kind. Only Copenhagen has similar ferries, whose operations began early this year. These battery-powered electric ferries would bank on their diesel generator only when extra power is needed, the sources said.
Another four vessels that would follow are expected to be introduced in the Vyttila-Kakkanad corridor by December.
Jetties have already been readied at either end of this route, while one at Eroor ought to be constructed. The construction of jetties in the islands and in Fort Kochi (where its extent was reduced from 20,000 sq.ft. to 8,000 sq.ft. following opposition from heritage enthusiasts and environmental activists), has picked up pace after an initial lull, they added.
The fare for the ferries - which worked out to approximately ₹4 per km as per a Government Order issued in 2021 is expected to be discounted by KMRL, since a bulk of commuters would be islanders whose average monthly income is less than ₹20,000, it is learnt.