KMRL explores alternative options as French agency withdraws from extending loan for Kakkanad extension

There has been inordinate delay in executing preparatory work for the Kochi Metro’s Kakkanad extension. | Photo Credit: H. VIBHU

With French lending agency AFD reportedly expressing its reservations about extending a soft loan of approximately ₹1,300 crore for the Kochi metro’s 11.20-km Kakkanad extension, Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL), which was in talks with other global lending agencies, is awaiting the nod of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) to finalize a loan with one of them.

The AFD was reportedly not impressed with the daily patronage of the metro’s 27-km Aluva-Thripunithura SN Junction phase-one corridor, with just 70,000 people (who include those taking return trips) traveling in the mass rapid transport system (MRTS), vis a vis the over four lakh that had been projected in the detailed project report (DPR) prepared by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).

A team of experts from the agency who visited Kochi a couple of months ago was also not happy with the tardy progress of integrating the metro with other modes of commuting, preparing a full-fledged feeder network, an intelligent transport system, and transit-oriented development (TOD), it is learned.

There was also an element of concern about the inability of the Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority (KMTA) to make its presence felt and help integrate commuting modes, two years since its formation. The proliferation of private vehicles in the Greater Kochi area, despite the availability of an MRTS that cost over ₹5,000 crore and was envisaged to reduce automobile pollution, was seen as yet another reason.

Responding to the AFD withdrawing its decision to extend loan for the metro’s Kakkanad extension, KMRL sources said it was being seen as part of its decision not to fund any new metro or its extension in India, for the time being. On the daily patronage front, Kochi has been doing relatively well among tier-2 cities, with 70,000 daily commuters. “The DPR ought to have projected a more realistic figure. We will go ahead with the Kakkanad extension as was scheduled, despite the AFD’s decision, by sourcing funds from other agencies,” they added.

Moreover, the Centre’s Metro Rail Policy, 2018 lays emphasis on light metro and metro light than conventional metro system, which in turn considerably lessens capital investment and the need for external borrowings. At the hint of AFD not keen on extending soft loan, KMRL is learned to have held discussions with, among others, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), KfW (a German lending agency), and the European Union (EU). to mobilize funds.

On the way ahead, KMRL sources said they were looking at sourcing loans from both domestic and external agencies for the Kakkanad extension. It will lessen the impact of volatility of currency.

In the meantime, doubts persist about whether the extension can be realized for ₹1,957 as has been projected, considering the delay in getting Central sanction and the cost overrun of the first phase.

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