As the former Kerala Police chief Loknath Behera took charge of Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) as its new managing director, tough challenges awaits him as far as the prestigious project is concerned. The major among them will be playing a pivotal role in getting sanctions for the second phase of Kochi Metro from Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to Kakkanad.
The state cabinet has already approved the Rs 2,310-crore extension with 11 stations fromJLN Stadium, including Palarivattom Junction, Palarivattom (traffic) signal, Chembumukku, Vazhakkala, Kunnumpuram, Kakkanad Junction, Kochi Special Economic Zone, Chittethukara, Rajagiri, Infopark I and Infopark II. The proposal submitted by KMRL is under the consideration of the Union government and it is yet to give its nod.
Sources said Behera’s appointment will be a key in securing the nod as the officer has a good connection with the Union government. “Though he is being shifted to the new responsibility from law and order to a public transport company, his good rapport with the Centre will help in getting necessary sanctions from Delhi,” said a source.
The KMRL MD is also the head of Kochi Water Metro Ltd, which will be the SPV for implementing the `747-crore Water Metro project. The first set of modernised ferries for the project is getting ready at Cochin Shipyard. In addition, he will also have to look after the follow-up works of Phase 1 of Kochi Metro including the extension up to S N Junction and Tripunithura.
“His prime focus should be the second phase as any delay in getting the nod will further escalate the project cost. The Phase II of Kochi Metro up to Kakkanad was proposed way back in 2012 along with the launch of the first phase. The cost is escalating. The Centre also recently suggested considering light metro. The airport expansion plans are also now proposed. Hence, the new managing director will have to prioritise the proceedings to carry the project forward,” said MP Hibi Eden.
He also said the new managing director should make sure that last-mile connectivity is ensured to the passengers. “Everything should be transparent. He should inject more professionalism to KMRL,” added the MP.