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Saturday 18 March 2017

Will tramway make travel easy to West Kochi?

KOCHI: Codatu, a French NGO specialising in urban transport and planning, has suggested a 10-km new generation tram (NGT) corridor linking the first Goshree Bridge and Thopumpady, with future extensions to Fort Kochi (6.5 km) and Edakochi (3.5 km).
The project cost, including expenses on restructuring the entire 20.10-km corridor into a pedestrian-cum-public transportation-friendly facility has been put approximately at ₹1,945 crore. Modern trams are like light metro running at grade (road level), sources said. Incidentally, the National Urban Transportation Policy - 2014 encourages the adoption of modern and economical modes of mass rapid transport.
The development comes in the wake of Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) ruling out the metro’s extension to Fort Kochi a few days ago, citing the huge cost of acquiring land in the densely-populated region which has narrow roads and bridges. The need to demolish heritage structures and availability of other economical alternatives like waterway transport too were cited as reasons.
In the past two years, Codatu helped KMRL prepare and execute a host of initiatives like integrating various public transport modes and developing open spaces.

Advantages galore

Welcoming the NGO’s suggestion for a tramway linking the city and West Kochi, a senior KMRL official said the line between metro rail and tramway was blurring since NGTs are preferred to metro, thanks to their cost-effectiveness and the need for less land acquisition. “Tramways need much less civil structures in comparison with the metro, which requires hundreds of pillars and heavy station buildings. Trams operating in dedicated corridors are also preferred to bus-rapid transport (BRT) system considering that a three-coach tram can carry four times the number of commuters than a bus. Feeder buses are ideal for last-mile connectivity for both trams and metro rail,” the official added.
The other advantages of trams are that they do not spoil the urban fabric and ring in operational profit from day one. Just like metro trains, modern trams accelerate and decelerate fast. Their lower diameter wheels enable low-floor boarding.
The tramway suggested by Codatu will integrate with the metro at Maharaja’s College ground station and the proposed water metro at Boat Jetty, Thopumpady, and Fort Kochi.


Official sources said that at-grade tramway costs ₹100 crore per km. This includes the cost of restructuring roads and footpaths, shifting utilities to the underground duct and rebuilding drains to prevent flooding of tram rail during rain, which together come to ₹12 crore per km. The remaining ₹88 crore per km is the cost of laying to-and-fro tracks, power supply, building shelters at stops, cost of procuring coaches, and building a maintenance depot-cum-control centre. It will rely on the existing road signal system, which will be modified to accord priority to trams.
On the contrary, a metro-rail system costs ₹240 crore per km, mainly due to the prohibitive cost of building elevated viaducts or underground rails and station buildings. The expense does not include the cost of developing roads, footpaths, and drains.
Moreover, the massive metro viaduct is a permanent structure, unlike tram rails which can be removed if need be. Yet another advantage of tramways is that they can be built in one-third the time taken for building the metro viaduct. They also need much less land acquisition for stations since entry and exit corridors need one third the space of metro stations, KMRL sources said. Beside, trams can take sharp curves, further lessening the need for more space at junctions.
A tramway through Menaka and MG Road will bring down the number of buses and private vehicles in the city hub. Commuters can board trams that pass through the centre of the road, from stations located on either side.

Kakkanad extension

To a question whether the proposed metro extension to Kakkanad, for which Central nod is long awaited, could be substituted by tramway, a senior metro official said it might be too late since the extension had got all approvals, and that a French loan had been assured.
(John Paul, The Hindu, Kochi dt 19-3-2017)

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