KOZHIKODE: Dropping the pricey monorail projects in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode was the only option before the state government, but the hasty decision to go ahead with Light Rail Transit is being seen as ‘facesaving’ exercise, due to a host of reasons.
For one, neither the Public Works Department nor the Transport Department has conducted a comprehensive study on what exactly should be the ideal Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) for these two cities. Without doing any homework on the appropriateness, the government decided to implement them and studies were conducted regarding their implementation.
While the state lost more than two years by chasing an impractical project, the DMRC received a consultancy fee of Rs 9 crore.
The recent decision of the Kerala Monorail Corporation Limited (KMCL) to implement Light Rail was also on the basis of a recommendation by the Metroman.
Second, the government took a one-size-fits-all approach while deciding Monorail as the solution for both Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode, which have totally different transportation needs, again without a proper study.
Third, given the acute financial crisis, the state government would hardly be able to fund Light Rail, which will cost between Rs 160 to Rs 180 cr per km.
“The project got the go-ahead for the single reason that there would be less land acquisition.
No expert including the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) had predicted that Monorail would require such huge investment. No wonder, if the same thing happens in the case of Light Rail Transit,” said a top official with the Works Department.
The KMCL (Kerala Monorail Corporation Limited) managing director P I Sheikh Pareed conceded that monorail was proposed because it was thought to be cheaper than Metro or Light Rail.
“The decision to implement the Light Rail was taken following an opinion that the project cost will be within the estimate prepared by DMRC for the monorail project,” he said.
According to DMRC, the cost per km to construct Light Rail would be `180 crore. It is to be noted that the Metro Rail being constructed in Kochi costs around `210 crore per km.
As per the estimate submitted by the DMRC, the cost of constructing one kilometre of monorail was pegged close to `162 crore. However, the lone bid by Bombardier Transportation Holdings, USA, to construct the facility was around `270 crore.
Moreover, the chances of getting funds from the central government for the project in Kozhikode are highly unikely.
As per the norms, centre will fund for MRTS projects in cities which have a minimum population of 10 lakh. Currently, Kozhikode’s population is below 5 lakh while Thiruvananthapuram has a population of around 9.6 lakh.
However, Sheikh Pareed said that the light rail is expected to get a good response as the technology is widely in use.
“The advantage in favour of Light Rail is that works can be awarded after inviting split tenders. Hence, cost escalation would not occur unlike in the case of Monorail which had only one bidder despite tenders being invited twice,” he said.
(To be continued)