Nine months after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone for the Kochi Metro Rail Project, the first step towards this dream project was taken Friday at a gala ceremony in Kochi.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy gave the green signal, waving a green flag. Soon afterwards, at a spot three kilometres from the venue of the inauguration, piling work began.
The entire project is being managed by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). Its principal advisor E. Sreedharan is overseeing every aspect of the work.
"Sreedharan has assured us that the first train would run on this track 1,095 days from today (Friday). And he has sought not a single day's delay. We have now asked for a feasibility study to be completed in six months' time to see if the present project can be extended to other parts of the city," Mr Chandy said.
Incidentally, the project was first talked about in 2005, when Mr Chandy took the initiative in the matter. The Rs.5,180 crore mega project, with trains connecting 25 km of the city, from Alwaye to Petta, had to clear enormous hurdles, including legal battles in the acquisition of land for it, and speculation that DMRC would not be given the contract.
Elias George, managing director, Kochi Metro Rail Corporation, said domestic and external sources of funding are being sought, and Japan and France are potential funding partners.
"To start with, we are going to source funds from domestic sources, and then look for external funding," said George.
Popular film actor Captain Raju, who was spotted in the audience at the ceremony, said he was elated to see the project become a reality. "This will change the face of the city," he said.