This Saturday, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates the first stretch of the Kochi Metro, the city will become the eighth in the country to have a Metro line. The stretch covers 11 stations, is 13.2 km long and is built at a cost of Rs 3,750 crore.
It is ironic, as much as it is a matter of pride, that a city in Kerala should claim the mantle of the fastest and longest first-stretch Metro rail completion in the country.
The Metro has several firsts to its credit. It will generate a part of its power requirements through solar panels, it has the latest communications-based train control; it has indigenously-built coaches as part of the ‘Make in India’ project. It is the most cost-efficient metro and has provided employment for transgenders. It’s also the first time that a foreign funding agency, from France, has given a loan of Euro 180 million for a 25-year period.
It’s equally remarkable that only few days have been lost due to strikes in the entire four-year period. The Kochiite never complained when the barricades of the Metro clogged his daily commute, or when footpaths were covered with concrete waste. Surely the Metro proves Kerala can deliver big projects, when it is executed professionally and when the people are taken into confidence. The end product would be a confluence of the image of Metro Man E Sreedharan and the quietly efficient KMRL Managing Director Elias George.
Yes, there have been some notable exceptions. The Cochin International Airport, built in 1999, is India’s first airport to be developed under a public-private partnership and is the first solar-powered airport. The International Container Transshipment Terminal at Vallarpadam, near Kochi, is India’s first such facility. Yet, Kerala has been criticised for its inability to take up large infrastructure projects, involving big-ticket investment. But the Kochi Metro will fortify the state’s pursuit to shed a common perception that Kerala figures low down the ease-of-doing business ladder compared to other destinations.