It was a historic Saturday for Kerala as the state's first metro rail was inaugurated in Kochi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi amid much fanfare.
Following the inauguration of the Kochi Metro, the Prime Minister took a ride on it, along with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala Governor P. Sathasivam, Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu and other BJP and CPI(M) leaders.
The leaders took a ride from the Southern Naval Command's air terminal to the Palarivatom station.
At the air terminal, the Prime Minister was received by Kerala Governor P. Sathasivam, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, actor Suresh Gopi and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders.
Modi was received at Palarivatom station by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Principal Advisor E. Sreedharan who oversaw the project implementation.
Modi travelled along with all the important state and central dignitaries including Union Information and Brodcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu. During the trip, Sreedharan explained the details of the project.
The Prime Minister addressed a gathering of thousands of his supporters, greeting them in Malayalam and referred to Kochi as the "queen of the Arabian Sea".
"The city's population has been rising steadily and is expected to reach 23 lakhs by 2021. Therefore, a mass rapid transport system is essential to address the increasing pressure on urban infrastructure. This will also contribute to Kochi's economic growth," said Modi.
He said the metro project with several significant features was the first to be commissioned with a modern "Communication Based Train Control Signalling System".
"The coaches reflect the 'Make in India' vision. They have been built by Alstom of France, at their factory near Chennai, and have an Indian component of around 70 per cent."
Modi said another "noteworthy aspect" of the project is that nearly "1,000 women and 23 transgenders are being selected to work in the Kochi Metro Rail System".
"The long-term plan is to become a zero-carbon emitting urban transit system. Every sixth pillar of the metro system will have a covered vertical garden, which will substantially use urban solid waste," the Prime Minister said.
The first 25-km phase will run for 13 km between Palarivattom and Aluva and work on the remaining section is expected to take another two years.
The normal operations for the public will begin at 6 am on Monday.
Pinarayi Vijayan said that the â€śKochi Metro is the fastest commissioned metro in the country, which is incredible considering the high traffic density in the state.â€ť
â€śWith Women, Kudumbahree workers and transgenders in its workforce, the Metro raised the standards for social inclusion and fairness. Workers from all parts of India were part of Kochi Metroâ€™s construction. We canâ€™t thank them enough,â€ť the Kerala CM said.
"With a total of generation of 2.3MW from solar in stations, vertical pillar gardens, and lower carbon emissions, Kochi Metro is a green metro. Together the Kochi Metro, water metro, metro bus and bike sharing will create a multi-modal mobility system in the city," he added.
â€śKochi Metro is a 50:50 joint venture between the Government of India and the Government of Kerala. The Centre has so far released Rs. 2032.91 crore to the Kochi Metro,â€ť Venkaiah Naidu said.
Modi later drove to the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium to address an invited audience of about 3,500 guests.
Work on the Kochi Metro began in 2012 after the former Oommen Chandy government entrusted the project to Sreedharan.