The Metro and the “Metros” – by Ashwin Kartha

The DMRC chief had expressed concern over the newly formed Kochi Metro Rail Limited's ability to complete the project in the specified time-frame as the latter lacked experience and expertise in implementing metro projects.

As the name suggests, this particular article is based on the recent buzz of the soon-to-open Kochi Metro.

It was in late 2004 that the Kerala government felt the need and decided to implement a project for the Kochi Metro. It was planned to have been implemented on the lines of the Delhi and Chennai Metros.

The project was to commence in early 2005 and complete by the end of 2010. Very clearly, this did not happen.

Keeping in mind the various issues that have taken place in Kerala over the past few years and the methodology the state government has used to tackle such issues, it should come as no surprise that this project as well was due to some sort of political dispute.

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But, here is the twist. This project was more than just a state government trying to uplift its stakes in terms of technology.

The government had unanimously decided that the project would be headed by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and that Former DMRC chief, Mr. E Shreedharan would lead the team, keeping in mind his vast experience and record of completing projects before the deadline.

Now, similar to various other projects, this project too faced an issue; Finances. The Kerala government had sought Central Government’s assistance for the project to be built on the lines of the Delhi Metro project in terms of funding.

The Centre refused this request. The Union Government was in favour of implementing the project in public–private partnership (PPP), ruling out its own financial involvement.

The Ministry of Urban Development and the Planning Commission were also against government investment in the project, and refused to accept it as a project in line with the Delhi and Chennai metros.

The political rivalry between the LDF government in Kerala and the UPA government at the Centre was a major reason for such developments and the slow down in the project. The change in government in Kerala changed that scenario, making the Kochi Metro one of the top priorities of the UDF government.

Inspite of everything being finalized, there was still one little conflict; What role would the DMRC play in this project?.

DMRC MD, E. Sreedharan said on a day before his retirement from DMRC that he was not interested in associating with the Kochi Metro project if the DMRC was not involved in the implementation of the project.

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The DMRC chief had expressed concern over the newly formed Kochi Metro Rail Limited’s ability to complete the project in the specified time-frame as the latter lacked experience and expertise in implementing metro projects.

It was after a lot of scuffle that the state government finally decided to entrust Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) with the task of executing the project under the leadership of E Sreedharan, according to a decision taken by a meeting of the director board of the KMRL held in Trivandrum.

After all this, you might think that all was hunky dory and that the project would have had a smooth start. But again, who are we kidding!. There were campaign’s on social networking websites such as facebook and twitter, all promoting the contribution and involvement of the DMRC and Mr. E Shreedharan for the project.

As expected, there was an overwhelming response by the public and many fans supported the cause in full spirit. Keeping the controversy alive, The chairman of the GCDA had a different opinion. He insisted on a global tender for the project.

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In a publicly issued media statement he was quoted as saying: “Various agencies will get an opportunity to analyse the detailed project report prepared by DMRC. There will be more transparency and clarity.

If DMRC is the best metro agency, they can compete with others and take up the responsibility of executing the project. No project should be individual centric or organisation centric.

DMRC is not the only agency in the world involved in execution of metro projects and E Sreedharan is not the only expert available. The state should go for a global tender and choose a competent agency.”

So much so, the words of this one wise man was taken seriously and the state decided to complete the project in 3 stages by awarding different global tenders at each stage. DMRC, would however, still oversee the project and act as the consultant.

The foundation stone was finally laid on 13th September 2012 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh The project is estimated at a total of Rs.5,181.79 crore!!. Knowing our country, this is just the beginning of another great story. What comes out of it is yet to be witnessed.

For now, we hope this project takes good shape and that Kochi gets its to boast of its own Metro Rail system!.

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