29 July 2015

Workshop in Kochi: “A Mass Transit Project, an opportunity for the urban development of a city”

and Lyon Town Planning Agency (LTPA) in Kochi (India)

Within the framework of a two-year technical partnership between SYTRAL (Lyon Transport Authority), KMRL (Kochi Metro Rail Limited), CODATU and AFD (French Agency for Development), a workshop was organized in Kochi from the 30th of May to the 3rd of June 2015. For this workshop, CODATU was accompanied by two representatives of Lyon Town Planning Agency (LTPA), Patrice Berger, urban planner, Director of International Affairs, and Julia Rudolph, architect and urban landscaper.

By inviting them to the workshop, CODATU wanted them to share the experience of Lyon with KMRL, and insist on how a mass transit system can be a great opportunity for the urban development of a city. There are 52 Town Planning Agencies in France, among which Lyon is one of the biggest, with a team of 85 persons offering various skills: urban planners, urban designers, architects, engineers, geographers, GIS specialists, map specialists and economists. As part of their international activities, they work with 19 cities on 4 continents, mainly through city-to-city cooperation.

Kochi, a city with a high potential

Overlooking the Arabian sea, and surrounded by canals and backwaters, Kochi has an exceptional geographic location. Few decades ago, inhabitants of Kochi used to reach their house by boat. Today, the city is experiencing a rise in private vehicle ownership and the road network is becoming saturated. From that observation, Kochi decided to built a 25 km metro system, to restore the image of public transport and free the city from the current congestion.

Indeed, that is the right time for Kochi to get such a system, especially with KMRL being very much aware of its potential for the urban development of Kochi. From the beginning, KMRL knows that the metro alone won’t be a solution for Kochi, except if it is well integrated with the other means of transport. Hence, KMRL is currently writting its Comprehensive Mobility Plan (CMP) and leading different studies related to integration and upgrade of non-motorized transport. KMRL is the first metro company in India to look at all those non-infrastructure components.

A 4-day design studio

For this first workshop, CODATU implemented the “design studio” method, in which priority is given to brainstorming sessions and debates, in order to quickly understand the organization of the city, its main challenges, and come up with innovative ideas and solutions. This methodology is commonly used in architecture and industrial design, and is famous for its highly interactive approach, mixing concept, creation and critique.

For the sessions to be the most effective and rich, CODATU invited a variety of local stakeholders, such as the mayor of Kochi, members of the Cochin Corporation, representatives of the Road Transport Corporations, NGO’s (C-hed, CPPR, Better Kochi Response Group), KMRL consultants (UMTC, Tata Elxsi), urban transport specialists (O.P Agarwal), members of the Regional Transport Office (RTO), of the Town & Country Planning Department and of the Public Work Department (PWD).

The design studio was organized around 4 days, each day having a special focus:

  • Day 1: Mental geography of Kochi and understanding of its interactions with the metro corridor – Identification of the challenging stations and definition of a primary network.
  • Day 2: Focus on the city centre and its challenges in terms of east-west connectivity, accessibility, intermodal integration and public spaces.
  • Day 3: Focus on 3 locations which have a good potential of becoming multi-modal hubs and sub-centres (Edappally, South Railway Station, Vytilla).
  • Day 4: Update of the 2014 UMTA Road Map, in the light of the urban projects identified during the workshop.

Identification of urban projects


Sketch of Kochi MG Road by Lyon Town Planning Agency

Through several site visits and extensive discussions with Kochi stakeholders, CODATU and LTPA could identify various urban projects that would enhance the metro project by making it accessible, safe, pleasant for the users and well-integrated in the urban landscape and the other means of transport. Among the propositions, the asymmetrical pedestrianisation of one of the busiest street of Kochi (Mahatma Gandhi Road) has been highly appreciated by KMRL team, who really want to take the most out of this metro project. Indeed, making MG Road pedestrian can change the face of the city, by reducing significantly the traffic on this historical road, and providing an easy and comfortable access to the metro station. Pedestrians and shopkeepers would highly benefit from this project.

Following the workshop, KMRL started looking at the feasibility of such project. The topographic survey as well as the consultation with all the stakeholders are going on.

The other projects identified are related to the development and upgrade of multi-modal hub as sub-centres (Vytilla, Edappally), place making around the major railway station of Kochi, and improvement of the multi-modal integration around selected metro stations. For more information, read the following press articles:

What next?

The next CODATU workshop will take place in Kochi on the 20th and 21st of July 2015 and will focus on the process of setting-up an integrated transport network. Experts from Lyon (Keolis) will be sharing their experience on that topic, along with integration related topics (fare integration, multi-skilling…).