KOCHI: At a time when doubts linger over the Kochi Metro rail project's second phase and Thiruvanthapuram Light Metro, there is good news for commuters in both cities as the Kerala State Planning Board is considering a proposal to start water trains.Kurian George, a retired executive engineer of Kerala State Electricity Board, who has patented the water-train technology, said its implementation cost would be around `40 lakh per km. It is much cheaper compared to Kochi Metro, for which the cost is `400 crore per km. While the ultimate aim of water train is to connect Aluva and Tripunithura, Edappally-Vennala stretch on the 12km Edappally Canal will form the pilot project as a technology demonstrator.
Planning Board Industry and Infrastructure Chief N R Joy, who reached Edappally on Saturday along with a team of officers, said the technology could also be considered for Aakkulam-Vallakkadavu stretch in Thiruvananthapuram."We're studying the project's viability. As per the inventor's presentation, the water train's operating cost will be 10 times lesser than the Kochi Metro. Tourist spots can be connected through water train while it can be also utilised for goods transportation," said Joy.
The project's main challenge, however, is to develop the state's canal system as a clean and navigable water transport and leisure infrastructure."We can consider water train as an affordable mode of transport. But the canals in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram are highly polluted. Kitchen waste and slaughter waste are dumped while the sewage lines from many apartments also open into them. The expenditure to clean them up will be very high. However, operating boats will help increase the dissolved oxygen level in the water bodies," said Joy.
George said his model, which comprises two bogies, has been found feasible. He said the water train is more efficient than other modes of mass transit systems on the energy-consumption front.
The water train resembles the barge trains. But unlike the latter, which are drawn by tugs, the water train derives its power from an on-board motor. The rail is supported by concrete pillars erected on the bed of canals. The train’s arms are connected to the rail through wheels that run on rails to get the train moving. The on-board electric motor transmits the power to the two horizontal traction wheels which grip the rail. The train can be operated in canals having a minimum width of 7.5 metres. It is accident-free, energy efficient and does not cause canal-bank erosion, said George.
Kerala State Water Transport Department Director Shaji V Nair said the project was viable if one considered it as a mode of transport through canals.“Though cleaning up the canals is a Herculean task, the water trains’ operating cost is very affordable. While boats operated in water bodies consume much power for propulsion, water train runs using much lesser energy as it is supported by rail system,” said Shaji.
Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation Assistant Engineer Sunil Peter and Water Transport Department Traffic Superintendent M Sujith were also part of the visiting team.