Kochi: The State Water Transport Department (SWTD) has written to the Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) requesting the latter to restore feeder bus service in the Infopark- Chittettukara section that was abruptly stpped last month nearly after three years in operation. What has forced the SWTD to put up the plea before the metro authorities is that the City Water Bus, the boat service operated in the Vytilla-Chittukara route, has suddenly lost a major chunk of daily commuters, threatening the very operation of the service depended by hundreds of Infopark emloyees, Collectorate staff and the students of a major college among others.
The KMRL operated the 28-seater tempo traveler from Chittettukara boat jetty to Infopark and Civil Station offering free travel to the boat commuters during peak hours. The feeder service was stopped from July 20 since the metro authorities were incurring additional expenditure of nearly Rs one lakh per year as operational expense alone. Earlier the peak hour boat services (7 am, 8 am and 9.20 am) from Vytilla were nearly full and on return direction, the trips at 4 pm, 5.20 pm and 6.20 pm also recorded an average 60 commuters. Now that has been cut down to half. In short 90 per cent of the commuters had used the feeder bus service,” a crew of the boat said on the condition of anonymity.
“Our school is located a further two kms from the Chittettukara jetty and now we’re forced to walk all the distance. The autoricksaw people too are exploiting the situation by hiking fares. Now they charge Rs 40 instead of earlier Rs 20,” said Alida Santosh, a student of Rajagiri who stays at Aroor. She used to get down at Vytilla and take the boat to go to her school.When contacted, a senior metro official said the feeder service was stopped due to “budgetary reason”. “We’ve considering two options to help commuters in the segment – one is to charge commuters a nominal rate so as to cover the operating feeder bus expense and the other is to use autorickshaws feeder services in the route,” the official said. The travel through the boat takes only 20 minutes instead of over an hour travel by buses in the peak hours. Commuters can also enjoy a noise and pollution free ride.