Kozhikode metro a distant dream?

Question arises whether the tier-two city needs big-ticket projects

Every city aspires for a dream project. A big dream of Kozhikode has been a rail-based mass rapid transport system, which could overcome the imbalance of vehicle population and land use in the city.

Such a project would have been a game changer for the city and its suburbs. At least, many thought so. The ambitious monorail project, initiated more than a decade ago, was proposed initially. The proposal that gained traction following the visit of delegations from Singapore Mass Rapid Transit Train Limited and Kuala Lumpur Monorail to the city in mid-2000s was presented as an answer to traffic congestion in the city.

The plan to establish a 23.5-km monorail from Kozhikode Medical College to Ramanattukkara in two phases at a cost of ₹920 crore gained momentum when the State government roped in E. Sreedharan, former managing director of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), to head the project. The first phase of the project was to commence in January 2014.

The ball was set in motion with the opening of a project office in the city in April 2012. The government formed a company with the Chief Minister as chairman and other ministers and heads of departments as directors. Perhaps, what forced the government to shelve the project was its huge estimated cost. Bombardier Transportation (Holdings) USA Inc, the lone bidder, had quoted ₹10,392 crore, instead of the estimated ₹5,581 crore, for monorail projects for both Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram.

Consequently, then government decided to set up a light rapid transit system (light metro) in August 2014. It is another matter that the ₹2,500-crore light metro project is yet to obtain clearance from the Public Investment Board. Also, the reluctance on the part of the State government to sign the turnkey consultancy agreement for preparatory work for the transit system forced DMRC to pull out of the project and shut down its office in Kozhikode three years ago. Had the project been started on time, it would have been a reality in 2021.

It is only reasonable to ask whether the project was conceived considering the urban context of Kozhikode. Studies on mass rapid transport systems for urban areas showed that each city had different choices such as metro rail, light rail transit, monorail, bus rapid transit system, and personal rapid transit. In all modes, peak hour peak direction traffic (PHPDT) on the proposed corridor, population of the city agglomeration, and the average trip length are the given criteria.

Kozhikode does not qualify in any of these as PHPDT is 20,000 here as of 2030, and the city population should be in the range of 10 lakh to 20 lakh as per the 2001 Census. Question arises whether Kozhikode, a tier-two city, needs big ticket projects.

The government ought to have given preference to strengthening and encouraging public transportation and improving infrastructure such as construction and expansion of roads and flyovers in and around the city to ease traffic snarls.

(MALABAR MAIL is a weekly column by The Hindu’s correspondents that will reflect Malabar’s life and lifestyle)

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 3:51:22 AM |

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