India’s first water metro funded by German development bank

Slow-moving tourist boats are still the main source of transport for more than 900 kilometres of waterways

Communities living along the backwaters of the port city of Kochi in Kerala state could soon gain better access to the mainland via India’s first water metro.

The transport network, due for completion in 2020, will open up opportunities for people living by the lagoons of India’s coastal state, where slow-moving tourist boats are still the main source of transport along more than 900 kilometres of waterways.

Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister, India called the project “a milestone in Kochi’s development”.

The German development bank, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), has provided a loan of €85 million to finance the metro, and will oversee the procurement of modern vehicles needed to transport up to 100 passengers per journey.

The project was approved by the German government in February 2016, deepening Germany’s commitment to Kochi as one of three future smart cities in India. The two cities joining Kochi’s development are Bhubaneswar in Odisha and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.

Elias George, Managing Director, Kochi Metro, said: “This is the first major externally funded urban water passenger transport project ever to be implemented in India, and its beauty is that it is not just an urban transportation project, but a complete infrastructure and livelihood enhancement for people living along the Kochi backwaters.”

The Kochi Water Metro will link 16 separate routes across 38 renovated docks, altogether covering around 76 kilometres along the southwest coast of India. The project also includes the reconstruction of several roads leading off from the jetties at Kochi in order to introduce safer traffic lighting and ease congestion.

Kochi’s bureau for municipal development, the Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA), has won several state approvals to widen Kochi’s roads and build new urban real estate. To date, the bureau has added 75 kilometres of road wide enough to accommodate Kochi’s growing commuter population. However, the GCDA recently terminated several water transport projects after failing to receive state approval.