Trial Run of Kochi Metro Rail set for February 2016

DMRC fast-tracks Kochi Metro rail-laying for trial run. First batch of three coaches for Kochi Metro is expected to arrive in January first week

Kochi Metro expnKochi: The trial run of the Rs.5,180 crore Kochi Metro project, expected to resolve the travel woes in Kerala’s commercial capital, is likely in February 2016, an official said on Saturday.

Kochi Metro MD Elias George told reporters here that they are working overtime to ensure that all things fall into place.

“The coaches will arrive later this month and the trial run is planned to take place in February,” said George.

Once ready, Kochi Metro will find its place in the record books as the fastest to be completed. It will run 25kms from Alwaye to Petta.

The pace of rail-laying work for Kochi Metro would increase four-fold from January, to enable trains to commence trial run from February. “L&T, entrusted with Kochi Metro project, have to speed up their work but we are confident of having the trial run in February,” added George.

The entire project is being managed by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) with its principal advisor E. Sreedharan overseeing it.

The central government’s share of funds in the project is close to Rs 1,000 crore, with the rest coming from loans the state government has availed from funding agencies.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is credited for conceiving this project first in 2005 when he was the Chief Minister but later it went into limbo, only to return to full steam when he assumed office in 2011.

Chandy is determined to have the trial run conducted as the assembly polls are likely to be held in April/May next year and he wishes to list this as one of his major achievements while approaching the electorate.

Ircon (a sister concern of Indian Railway) – the contractor entrusted with the works, was laying an average of 45 metres of rails daily using a batch of its workforce. This has increased to 90 metres since the workforce was doubled on Wednesday. Another batch will join in a week, followed by a fourth batch in January, taking the quantum of rails laid each day to 200 metres, said Dani Thomas, Kochi Project Director of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).

Ircon has so far completed laying over 3.50 km of rails in the Kalamassery region and within the coach-maintenance yard at Muttom, while 9 km of rails have been fused together. The up-lane from Aluva to the city is being given preference in rail-laying, to conduct trial runs from early 2016 in the Aluva-Palarivattom corridor. The first batch of three coaches for Kochi Metro is expected to arrive here in January first week.

Two flash-butt welding plants have been deployed – one along the metro viaduct at Kalamassery and another in the Muttom yard, to join 18-metre-long rails. Rails for the viaduct were shipped here from France, while indigenously-made rails would be used in the yard.

The rails having design speed of 90 km per hour have been tailor made for metro trains that would attain operational speed of up to 80 km per hour. Imported head-hardened rails are being used along the metro viaduct since they can withstand much more wear and tear than conventional rails, Mr. Thomas said.

Using the flash-butt welding technique, rails are heated using a flash and are then fused together. This does away with welding, an external process.

Another unique process adopted for ballast-less rail-laying is the top-down method. In this, the rails that are fused together are laid on the viaduct, following which concreting is done. The process that is carried out using a fleet of cranes and heavy machinery is done between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. to lessen impact on road traffic.

KMRL’s concern

Having inspected the progress of works at Muttom yard on Friday, KMRL MD Elias George said that Ircon, and L&T, which is engaged in civil works at the yard, must increase their pace of work to enable trial runs as scheduled, followed by commencement of metro’s commercial operations from June 2016.

The pace of ongoing construction work of the Muttom Yard of Kochi Metro Rail Project is “slow and below expectation”, KMRL Managing Director Elias George said on Friday while expressing concern over the possibility of further delay in the Kochi Metro trial run scheduled for February first week.

“The pace of the construction work is below the expectation. I’ve directed DMRC and other concerned parties to do the remaining works on a war-footing as the coaches are set to arrive by the end of this month or January first week. We’re determined to run the first Metro by the June 2016 deadline,” said Elias George who made a maiden visit to the yard along with officials of DMRC, Alstom, L&T and Ircon, among others.

KMRL had given written communication to DMRC to hasten the Metro construction works which got delayed by a host of reasons including land acquisition delay and monsoon.

“Only the stabling yard is ready. The ramp to the track is yet to be set up besides the test track. The first of the coach parts will be delivered from Alstom’s manufacturing facility at Sri City in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh by December end and it would take 10 days to deliver it here by road,” said sources.

DMRC officials, however, exuded confidence of completing the crucial works ‘within time”. “Two months is enough for completing the test tracks and ramp. We’ve asked the contractors to hasten the construction activities by increasing the workforce,” said a DMRC official.

Women to be movers and shakers of Kochi Metro

Kochi Metro is all set to have a women-dominated workforce, handling housekeeping and crowd management at stations. They will also man ticket counters.

They might also be deployed for customer relations to guide metro commuters – especially aged people, women and children. An MoU in this regard will be inked this month between Kudumbasree women’s self-help group and Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL). A draft MoU is ready.

The Kudumbasree will also provide a vast array of services, ranging from plumbing and electrical works at stations to catering at the metro’s coach-maintenance yard at Muttom.

Age group

“We have sought the services of women in the 21 to 50 age group from among the work force to whom the Kudumbasree is imparting soft skills. The KMRL will further train them in specific tasks that they would be deputed for,” metro sources said.

For example, women aged between 20 to 30 years and who can handle both Malayalam and English will most likely be deployed in ticket counters where the response time is minimal. The qualification and experience for each job will be specified shortly.

The KMRL has reportedly identified an agency to train them in hospitality and other relevant skills.

“We have been asked to inform the Kudumbasree at least two months in advance of the number of personnel we require. Major stations from among the 22 in the Aluva-Pettah metro corridor would need more workers than others. Similarly, more workers will be required during peak hours. The number of personnel in each shift will be altered accordingly,” they said.

Deployment of women plumbers and electricians will be done later on since firms that supply equipments will deploy their personnel during the guarantee period. They will in turn train Kudumbasree workers.

Kudumbasree workers might even be deployed for security work, provided they obtain a licence from police and other departments.

Feeder taxies

The self-help group is also gearing up to operate feeder-taxi services for the metro on the lines of She Taxi. “We will optimally use their services,” metro sources said.

MoU is to be signed between Kudumbasree and Kochi Metro Rail Limited.

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