Kochi: The Kochi Metro reaching the MG Road, the central business district of the city, has instilled a fresh hope among traders who are now optimistic about a turnaround in fortunes. “Nearly half of the business establishments were badly affected in the last two years due to the construction of the Kochi Metro. Many closed down outlets due to dip in sales as Edapally and the NH-66 stretch emerged as the new business hub of the city. Now that the Kochi Metro services have commenced till Maharaja’s College Ground, we hope for more people to arrive here for purchases,” said Rajesh Nair, MG Road Merchants Association Co-ordinator and also the Convener of Youth Forum, Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“We stayed put at MG Road in the hope that the business will recover once the Metro reaches the city. The services have just begun and it may take at least a week to assess its impact on business,” said Joy Thomas, in-charge of a prominent textile brand store. The shop was originally located at the site where the Maharaja’ College Ground station was built and had to be shifted when the land was acquired for construction. “The shop next to us was closed down as was the fate of several others,” he said. Shebin Naushad who runs a new generation tea shop just a few metres away from Maharajas College metro station claimed his shop lost almost 40 per cent business after the metro constructions began in the stretch.
“With the start of the metro services, many shops along MG Road, which had remained closed for long, have now opened instilling fresh hopes,” Naushad said. However, the traders community said two vital issues need to be addressed on a war-footing for redemption of commercial activities. “Lack of parking spaces and erection of barricades are driving away customers. Also the drainages are blocked and many shops face water-logging issues once it rains,” Nair said.
Union minister promises aid
Union Minister of State for Urban Affairs and Housing Hardeep Singh Puri has promised steps to expedite sanction process for other Metro proposals of the state government, including the two light Metro projects. He asked the state government to submit the proposals as per the new Metro policy-2017. While addressing the gathering during the inaugural function of second reach of Kochi Metro, Mr. Puri promised that the Centre will favourably consider the revised project proposals. The state government has to submit the proposals of the Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode light Metros as well as the Kochi Metro’s extension to Kakkanad.
“With the opening of 5 km Palarivattom – Maharajas stretch for commercial service it will give a fillip to the public transport system of Kochi. Innovative financing model involving private partnership is essential to make the Metro system feasible. Integration with other modes of transport also is important,” he said. The minister appreciated the innovative ideas mooted by Kochi Metro Rail Limited like common mobility plan for the city, automatic fare collection and multipurpose Kochi One Card.
Hibi demands ‘North’ metro station
Hibi Eden, MLA, has urged Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to instruct Kochi Metro Rail Limited to consider constructing a new Metro station in between the existing Lissie and MG Road stations. He was addressing the inaugural function of second reach of Kochi Metro, from Palarivattom to Maharajas. “The station can be either at Ernakulam North or Kacheripady. Hundreds of passengers including regular commuters accessing Ernakulam town railway station will benefit from it,” he said.
At present commuters travelling to north railway station or Kacheripady have to alight either at Lissie or MG Road stations. Though there was a plan to construct Metro station in front of the Ernakulam Town Hall it was dropped. The civc body, which gave eight cents of land for reconstruction of North railway over bridge, had agreed to provide land for station construction.
Novelty wears off as commuters rush in
The mad rush of joy riders witnessed during Metro launch in June last were missing but the initial trend pointed towards a substantial increase in commuters opting for the modern transport system after the services were extended to Maharaja’s College Ground, heart of the city, on Tuesday. “Now people will begin to use them during travel for their daily needs. If I can travel a five-km stretch through the city in under ten minutes, why do I hesitate,” noted Binu Jose (46), a resident of Vennala, who bought the first ticket from the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium upon commencement of commercial services at 11.24 am.
“Now the metro services will turn beneficial to Kochiites. What we’ve witnessed so far was joyrides. The novelty factor is out and regular commuters like me will start using the Metro,” Binu who is working as an instructor at an Aviation Academy added. Twin sisters Bhagyalekshmi and Dhanalekshmi think even the student community would get benefitted by the metro offering safe and comfortable journey. However, the Class IX students of Girls Higher Secondary School, Vennala, feel the ticket rates are slightly higher.
“Facilities of Kochi Metro seem better than that of Mumbai and Kolkatta metros and the stations are more spacious. But for Kochi Metro to be feasible it will have to turn operational in the entire stretch up to Pettah and authorities will have to offer more feeder services,” said Jomy George, a retired bank official from Palarivattom. Earlier, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan flagged off the train service in the five km JLN Stadium-Maharaja’s college section at 10.35 am. A large entourage consisting of political leaders and metro officials besides cops and media personnel meant the first train was jam-packed.
The train simply sped past the stations at Kaloor, Lissie, and MG Road before coming to a halt at Maharajas College station in eight minutes. The return journey started straightaway and the Chief minister and other officials de-boarded the train at Kaloor station and headed to the inaugural function at Town Hall by road. Meanwhile the ridership after commencement of services till Maharajas College ground as on 7 pm, Tuesday, was 19,195 clocking a revenue of `6, 71, 328....