The following research work conducted by Yogi Joseph of CEPT, Ahmedabad for CPPR aims to highlight the problems ailing the water transportation sector in Kochi. It relied upon extensive review of secondary data, people’s observations about the ferry system recorded through primary surveys, focus group discussions and perception studies to suggest feasible measures towards addressing those problems

The study seeks to understand the problems that ail the water transportation sector in Kochi City Region with specific reference to the hurdles faced by the very people for whom it is meant.

        • To review existing studies and policies that have been conducted on Kochi and its surroundings with reference to water transportation in particular.
        • To understand the roles and limitations of various agencies that operate in the domain of transportation in Kochi.
        • To seek and appreciate the concerns of the ordinary users of ferry transport and understand the role it plays in their life.
        • To synthesize possible approaches towards improving and thereby revitalizing the ferry transportation sector in the region

Survey details

The important role played by the ferry system in the lives of the daily commuters comprised of office-goers and students in KCR.

Over forty percent of the ferry users began their trips closer than one kilometre away from the jetty, which is considered to be walkable in Indian conditions. Similarly, more than fifty percent users head to a destination less than one kilometre away from the jetty.

Even more importantly, thirty-two percent of the interviewees came from a distance between one and five kilometres away from the jetty.

A sizeable sixty-eight percent of the ferry users interviewed had less than ten thousand rupees as their monthly family income. this includes nineteen percent passengers whose monthly income fell below five thousand rupees). Also forty percent of the interviewees vouched that they did not own any vehicle with another thirty-one percent owning just a cycle. The remaining twenty-nine percent owned either motorbikes or cars or autorickshaws.

The major reasons behind people patronising the ferry system inspite of its many obvious shortcomings are that it takes lesser time to travel between Ernakulam and Fort Kochi, say, by the ferry than taking a bus or private vehicle due to the heavy traffic on the city roads especially during peak hours. The same would also apply to sectors such as Ernakulam-Willingdon Island, Vypeen-Willingdon Island and Vypeen-Fort Kochi.also low fair. While a ferry trip from Ernakulam to Fort Kochi costs a mere two rupees and fifty paise, a bus trip costs as much as eleven rupees

Around fifty-six percent of the passengers interviewed for the study expressed their dissatisfaction with the quality of the ferry service.

Around fifty-three responses from amongst the interviewees contended that the frequency of services on various sectors was inadequate and far lesser than the existing demand.

They were also of the opinion that it was the lack of adeqaute number of services, especially during the off-peak hours, that was killing people’s confidence in the ferry system

lack of basic services such as toilets, seating and poor accessibility were the other major issues cited by the passengers.

Many were quick to point out that they had tripped while attempting to reach the jetty at nights. Some others also claimed to having seen snakes roam around in the vicinity. Official explanations were centred on the lack of clarity on whose responsibility it was to maintain the premises.

From the responses obtained from the travelling public, it was understood that the ferry-system needs to undergo a gradual make-over from the utilitarian quality of service delivery that is being offerred presently to a more professionally managed and operated system.

On-board services on ferry vessels also required great improvement in the eyes of the respondents with over seventy-five interviewees hoping to see better and more comfortable seating being provided on board the ferry itself. Another sixty-two respondents hoped to see newspapers being provided on board for the benefit of the users who travel to their offices and institutions in the morning.

Contrary to expectations, the people are willing to cough up a higher amount of money as fare, if only the services were to improve to their expectations. Around forty-three percent of the respondents were found to favour a two-fold hike in the current fare structure so that a two-way trip on the Ernakulam-Fort Kochi sector would cost ten rupees instead of the five rupees prevailing currently . this would still be only half as much as the cost of bus tickets for the same trip. Other advantages include the savings on time and comfort.

Suggestions

From the primary survey conducted on the sample, several issues and obstacles faced by the existing users of the ferry system came to the fore. Based upon those, the following suggestions are put forward

        • Provide Basic facilities:- As an immediate step, on humanitarian grounds at least basic facilities such as seating, leak proof roof, clean toilets for both sexes and lighting and drinking water facilities may be provided at the ferry stations.
        • Frequent Dredging:- Ensure the all-round-the-year approach to jetties for boats by frequent dredging of the channel and by understanding the natural factors that contribute to this phenomenon.
        • Improving Accessibility:- The approach roads to the ferry stations shall be well-laid with minimum level differences to make access easier for the old and women in particular
        • Monetisation:The various government agencies must immediately take proactive measures towards monetizing the market value of several prime plots of land under their occupancy in the heart of the city. The revenues earned as rent from such property may then be used to subsidize ferry ticket fares for the common people.
        • The fares may be raised to a maximum of double The current amount
        • Promote the concept of pay-park-and-go system at ferry stations so that people from the upwardly mobile classes also feel attracted to using the ferry station.
        • Introduce more technological advances in the field of water transportation
        • Provide end-to-end connectivity for passengers from their doorstep to the intended destination. Feeder buses or share autos may take the passengers from their neighbourhood to the ferry station and back.
        • Reroute buses and other modes of transport including the proposed metro-rail in a manner that they touch ferry stations so that the ferry users can have assured last-mile connectivity.
        • Introduce the concept of suitably subsidized season tickets with benefits for daily and frequent travellers. Extend the concept of e-ticketing and smart cards for the benefit of daily travelers
        • Involve the citizenry more actively in the planning and rebranding of the ferry system and solicit views on their aspirations and expectations from the new ferry system.It is indeed a matter of grave concern that despite the presence of such a vast network of waterways in the city, we have been unable to make use of it by positively integrating it into our city mobility plans. This is as serious an offence as the fact that despite copious rains, several parts of Kerala are still subjected to severe water crisis, especially in the period just before the monsoons’ arrival. we must address the concerns of the poorest of the poor who are most dependent on public transportation and set up this highly efficient and inexpensive mode of transportation in a financially-sound business model and technically feasible manner as early as possible.

 For the entire report. Click here..  Report on Inland Water Navigation- Final