The 747-crore Water Metro project to introduce a fleet of 78 air-conditioned ferries in the Greater Kochi area will be inaugurated online on February 22 by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, sources at Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) said. This is a week and a half earlier than was estimated. The first 100-passenger vessel that is slated to roll out of Cochin Shipyard later this month, is slated to begin service on the Vyttila-Kakkanad route, where work on terminals at either end is in its last lap. It will undergo trial runs for a few weeks before the formal inauguration. The first batch of 23 vessels will have seating capacity for 50 passengers, while another up to 50 people can commute standing. The vessels will have speed of over 8 knots (over 15 km per hour), which is double the speed of conventional ferries (except SWTDs fast ferry Vega-120 that travels much faster) that operate in Kochi.
A team from IIM-Kozhikode is slated to shortly suggest a fare structure for the Water Metro project. The deadline to submit the recommendations (including on the basis of online survey) expired on Wednesday. The team is keen to expand the ambit of their survey and have fanned out to social media platforms and the target group of the Water Metro project thousands of people who live on islands around mainland Kochi, metro sources said.
Armed with Malayalam and English questionnaires, they are in touch with self-help groups and Ayalkoottams to get an idea of how much fare probable commuters consider as reasonable and affordable. A few members are taking the response of people who alight from ferries at SWTD jetties, they added.
While the first ferry is expected to be handed over to KMRL this month-end, the other 22 will follow suit in batches, so that all of them are made available to the agency by year-end. The metro agency, which has assured the same level of comfort and reliability as Kochi metro in the ferries, will place orders for the balance 55 fifty-passenger ferries, based on feedback for the ferries launched in phase one. The ferries, which have capability of night navigation as well, are expected to operate from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., just like metro rail services.
The projects operational control centre (OCC) is expected to get ready later this year near its ferry terminal at Vyttila Mobility Hub. The second corridor where the ferries would operate is the passenger-dense High Court-Vypeen-Fort Kochi route.