Will it be Metro or Metrolite for Angamaly and Kakkanad?

Will it be Metro or Metrolite for Angamaly and Kakkanad?
At present, the Kochi Metro services are available from Aluva to Maharaja's College stadium.
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Kochi: As the centre is keen on promoting light urban rail-transit system called 'Metrolite'  in small cities and towns it has to been seen whether Kochi Metro gets further nod to extend to places like Kakkanad or Angamaly. The Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) has already warmed up to this move with its managing director Mohammed Hanish stating that the possibility of building a Metrolite route to Angamaly would be explored.

The central government is of the view that only large cities need metros. It won't be able to grant thousands of crores of rupees to every city that needs a metro. It also advices city planners to look at other less expensive options than a metro and suggests Metrolite as an alternative.

Accordingly, the KMRL is considering a Metrolite instead of the proposed Aluva to Angamaly metro link via the Nedumbassery airport under the third phase of the ongoing project. In the light of the new development, the project report that was prepared earlier for mtero extension will be revised as Metrolite services are run with trains having three coaches each and a restricted speed of 25 kmph.

The fate of Kakkanad extension

At present, the Kochi Metro services are available from Aluva to Maharaja's College stadium. By Onam, the metro will be extended to Thykoodam and later to Thrippunithura. It is expected that in the second phase Kakkanad too will be on the metro map.

The project report by the KMRL for the second phase expansion of the metro from the Kaloor Stadium to Kakkanad Smart City has been lying with the Centre for about one-and-a-half years now.

The extension to Kakkanad is part of the second phase of the Kochi Metro project.

The Kakkanad metro line needs 11 stations along the 11.2 km distance.  The government needs to acquire around 6.97 acres of land from 297 people at an estimated cost of Rs 135.72 crore. Besides, the roads have to be expanded to 22 metres, which will result in the complete demolition of 46 shops and partial demolition of 275 shops.

This part of the project was launched in 2013 and a detailed project report was submitted in 2015 which got the approval from the state government. However, it is yet to get the go-ahead from the central government.

The report was the revised version after the Centre announced its new metro policy. According to the project report, the metro needs to have 11 stations from the Kaloor Stadium to the Smart City and cost at least Rs 2,400 crore.

The central government even asked the state to look for other options for the second phase. The state has responded by saying that the second phase too should have metro trains since it is the continuation of the first phase. It is expected that the Centre would accept the state’s contention and give the approval for the Kakkanad extension.

Metrolite project

Even as the Kochi Metro runs from Aluva to Thrippunithura as is planned, Metrolite can cover other routes. Here are some routes where the Metrolite can run:

 From Thrippunithura to Aluva metro station via seaport-airport road, Smart City and Kakkanad

 The second phase of the metro service from Kaloor Stadium to the Smart City can be replaced with Metrolite

 From MG Road metro station to Vypin via Banerji Road and Goshree ridges

 From south railway station to Fort Kochi via Willingdon Island and Thoppumpady

 From Fort Kochi to Vytilla mobility hub via Kundannoor

 From Aluva metro station to Angamaly via the airport

How does it work

The Metrolite can be run on a dedicated path separating the road traffic with it. Also, fencing has been proposed on either side of the network for segregation with road traffic.

It can run on tracks or without it or like a metro it can have elevated corridor, which could push up costs due to the requirement of pillars. Stations are not required. The Metrolite coaches are 30% shorter than that of metro's besides being narrower.

At least 8.5 metres of space in the middle of the road can facilitate the to and fro movement of the Metrolite. There will be a station every 500 metres and even bus stops can be utilised as stations. At the stations, the platform should be 10 m.

Since the coaches of the Metrolite are small, it can easily negotiate even a 45-degree curve. It can also run on any road. Unlike the metro, it does not need an automatic fare collection gate; the tickets can be swiped inside. There will be employees to check ticket-less travellers and heavy penalty will be levied on those travelling without a valid ticket.

Since there are no civil works, there is no need to acquire land. In a place like Kochi, land acquisition would usually cost eight or 10 times of the construction costs.

A metro station would at least need a minimum of 800 sq m of space while a Metrolite can function without a station. If trains are available, the Metrolite can be launched within six months. It can also be taken up on a public-private partnership project.

Advantages galore

The Metrolite platform can be accessed through a foot underbridge or an overbridge from the road. The electricity to power the train can be provided through a third rail, a method of providing electric power to a railway locomotive through a semi-continuous rigid conductor placed alongside the railway track, similar to the Kochi Metro. However, considering the waterlogging on Kochi streets, overhead lines could be a better option.

The train can be run without electricity too -- using storage battery. The train can utilise the 15-20 seconds it stops at a station to flash-charge the battery for the next 2 km.

Since the Metrolite will pass through the existing traffic signals, they will have to be streamlined; initially traffic police personnel can be deployed to do this.

The Metrolite can run without tracks too. Two cables laid under the road surface will act as the tracks. The train will run based on the signals receiving from the cables. Since everything is computerised these days, the Metrolite won't even need a driver.

Can you imagine a train journey without the sound of steel wheels rolling over steel tracks? This will change with the Metrolite. It can use rubber tyres too. In that case, it doesn't need tracks too.

The benefits of the Metrolite are plenty. It can replace hundreds of buses on the city's roads. This can lead to reduction in use of lakhs of litres of diesel every year. Other advantages include reduction in road accidents and a public transport system that runs on time. The metro also does this, but the civil works for the metro will include piling, erecting pillars, girders, and laying tracks etc, sending the costs skyrocketing. The Metrolite needs just one-ninth of the costs when compared to the metro.

The cost differences between a metro and Metrolite are huge. To build a kilometre of metro line, at least Rs 280-300 crore is needed. For instance, the 11.2 km metro extension from the Kaloor Stadium to the Smart City will need at least Rs 2,400 crore. If the same amount is available, 30 km of Metrolite could be built across the city, say those supporting the project.

It is expected that 1.04 lakh passengers will use the Kochi Metro by 2023.

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