German Development Bank Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) has inked an agreement detailing the disbursement procedure and schedule  for Rs 747 crore (euro 85 million) with Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) to finance an integrated water transport system for Kochi city. The agreement, mandated by the German government, was signed in the presence of German Ambassador Martin Ney. Kochi is one of the three smart cities chosen by the German government for its support.

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The loan will be for the Kerala government and KMRL, a Special Purpose Vehicle set up jointly by the state government and the Union Ministry of Urban Development. The total project cost is estimated to be Rs 747 crore.

KfW will finance procurement of ferries, refurbishment or construction of jetties and associated dredging and other relevant investments. The project is expected to run ferries that are at least 20 per cent more fuel efficient than the currently operating boats. The overall project implementation will be in two phases and targeted to be completed by 2020. More than 100,000 islanders are expected to benefit from the water metro, complete with modern watercrafts, which will connect 17 of the 20 islands in Kochi. A single journey will cost four rupees and travellers will use prepaid cards onboard. The same smart card will also allow people to buy basic food supplies such as sugar or rice.

At present, about 2,400 islanders use an old state-run boat service, but unreliable timings and slow speeds have led to demand for a revamped public transport system.

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For the last mile connectivity, deployment of electric feeder buses, e-rickshaws and pedestrian walkways and bicycle tracks are envisaged. Better facilities for access and, in particular, requirements for the safety of women and specially challenged people will also be implemented.

“This is the first comprehensive project of its kind being implemented anywhere in the country for development of water transport network. A total of 78 new boats will be purchased for the service, thereby offering better connectivity between islands in the Kochi agglomeration area and the city,” said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan Speaking after commencement ceremony held at Koathad in Kadamakkudy, who added that the project would make the urban water transport network in the city modern and safer.

The Chief Minister also stated the project had the potential to influence the development of the greater Kochi area and improve the standard of living of its residents. The government decided to go ahead with the Water Metro project in keeping with its focus on ensuring a seamless ubran public transportation system.

The Water Metro will bestow Kochi with 78 modern boats and draw global attention to it as a major port city. The boats will be two variants of air-conditioned and WiFi-enabled catamaran passenger ferries with a capacity of 50 and 100 passengers and will operate at an optimal speed of eight knots, with the potential to go up to 12 knots once the dedicatedwater transit corridor is established.

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Apart from the development of the ferry service, the project also proposes the development of existing and new access roads providing increased accessibility to the jetties and enhanced mobility within the islands, infrastructure for ensuring safety and security to all its users by way of active and well-lit streets and CCTV cameras, promoting use of small occupancy feeder modes such as mini or midi feeder buses and electric rickshaws to access the jetties, promoting property development around the jetties, non-motorised transport infrastructure, facilities and infrastructure enabling smooth, disabled-friendly mobility, and public bicycle sharing schemes including development of bicycle docking stations at all the jetty locations.To realise this common command and control systems for all modes of urban transport, a harmonised route network and time schedule as well as joint ticketing are planned.