Finally, the Kochi Metro Rail is all set to take off. In a way, it’s the culmination of the toil of several go-getters. As the first managing director of KMRL, Tom Jose went to great lengths to see the project materialise. Now serving as the Additional Chief Secretary (Labour and Excise), he tells Anilkumar T how the venture took wings during his brief tenure.
What was your role in making Kochi Metro a reality? How do you feel now?
Like all Malayalees, it’s a proud moment for me too. When I took charge as KMRL Managing Director, I had to shoulder many responsibilities to propel the project. Though I couldn’t meet the intended target, this is really a huge achievement and the credit goes to the whole team.
What were the challenges during the initial stages?
Many. The first challenge was getting public support and to resolve their concerns. By holding a series of meetings with several stakeholders, we could allay the fears of the public. The project would not have materialised had they refused to hand over their land.
We didn’t even have an office. The Kerala State Inland Water Transport Department helped us set up an office from where the recruitments and other project proceedings were initiated.
The state had submitted a DPR to the Union Government in 2007. But it was shelved for years. How did it receive a fillip?
Since I am so attached to the city, I was worried about traffic congestion. I knew the Kochi Metro project to ease traffic congestion was in the ‘cold storage’. So, when I was appointed Transport Secretary, I took the file and prepared a concept note and presented it again before the cabinet. From there, the discussions and the procedures took off.
Earlier, the Central Government was sceptical of giving approval. How did the state get the green signal?
As per the Urban Development Ministry’s policy, the city required a minimum of three million people to get the sanction for such a project. Hence, we decided to add Aluva and Petta to form the Greater Kochi Area. This helped us bypass the restriction and enabled the state to get the green signal. After a series of discussions, the Centre also agreed to hold 50 per cent of the total stake in the project. All these happened in nine months.
There were several alternative proposals, including flyovers. How did KMRL deal with it?
Metro is purely a dedicated corridor. It is the only solution to ease traffic congestion. We have to acquire huge tracts of land for flyovers, especially at the entry and exit points. For a city like Kochi, Metro is a viable option and not flyovers. We convinced the public and all stakeholders the project will enhance Kochiites’ standard of living of.
How important is an integrated transport network for the city?
Other than Kochi, no other city in the country is blessed with a network of canals. Though the Water Metro project was mooted to improve inland transport, it will be possible only by evicting encroachments along the banks. The bridges need to be restructured and further dredging has to be carried out to facilitate navigation. If it becomes a reality, the city will undoubtedly become an investment hub in the near future.