Underwater tunnel will ensure seamless connectivity between Fort Kochi and Vypeen, says expert

Two-km-long structure could be built for ₹1,500 crore: Jose Paul

February 20, 2022 12:25 am | Updated 12:35 am IST - KOCHI

The ro-ro service between Vypeen and Fort Kochi.

The ro-ro service between Vypeen and Fort Kochi. | Photo Credit: File Photo

The burgeoning traffic in the Fort Kochi-Vypeen waterway corridor that is linked by a pair of roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferries and in the narrow road corridors linking Ernakulam and West Kochi has led to the idea of building a tunnel beneath the waterway linking Puthuvype and Fort Kochi.

While ensuring seamless travel between Vypeen and Fort Kochi, separated by the approximately 500-metre waterway, the tunnel would also provide an alternative road link from the city to the heritage locale, considerably decongesting roads that lead to West Kochi, said Jose Paul, former acting chairman of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Mumbai, and former chairman of Mormugao Port Trust. An adjunct professor at Indian Maritime University, Chennai, Mr. Paul had mooted the idea of the tunnel in 2015, following the Fort Kochi boat accident that claimed the lives of 11 passengers.

He said the Centre’s involvement would be crucial to realise the approximately 2-km-long tunnel that could be built for ₹1,500 crore, approximately 35 metres below the seabed. “It could take off around 800 m from the shore on either side. Marginal land acquisition would be necessary at the exit on the Fort Kochi end. The tunnel would also provide seamless north-south connectivity for the Coastal Highway that the State government has proposed,” said Mr. Paul, a doctorate degree holder in port management from the University of Wales, the U.K.

He said the probability of accidents like the one in 2015 could not be ruled out. This is because undercurrents in the waterway are strong and many boats and ships simultaneously pass through the stretch. The tunnel would also usher in development in the underdeveloped Vypeen region, he said.

Referring to the famous 50-km-long tunnel across the English Channel in the North Sea connecting Dover in the U.K. with Calais in Northern France, he said it is 75 metres under the seabed and trains run at a speed of 160 km per hour through the corridor that was built in 1994. A recent construction at Istanbul in Turkey is the 5.40 km long double-deck undersea tunnel, which is 60 metres below the seabed and links Europe with Asia. Similar or even better arrangements could be planned in Kochi and the tunnel could turn out to be an engineering marvel capable of attracting tourists. Informal discussions with experts on tunnel construction suggested the total cost might come to around ₹1,500 crore, said Mr. Paul, adding that a feasibility study would be required.

Welcoming the suggestion, E. Sreedharan, former Principal Advisor of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, said a modern underwater tunnel, the 10.80-km East West Metro Tunnel, was commissioned about a year ago as part of Kolkata Metro under the Hoogly river.

Water Metro and other ferries might be able to provide connectivity for commuters. A tunnel would provide connectivity to vehicles between Vypeen and Fort Kochi, said J. Karthikeyan, former chief engineer of Cochin Port Trust and current technical advisor for the Vizhinjam port development work. “It would improve the quality of life of people while also ushering in economic development,” he said.

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