By Lilit Marcus, CNN
Who says a metro has to be below ground?
In Kochi, a city in southern India, it’s now easier to get around via waterways thanks to a new fleet of slick, brightly colored ferry boats.
The “water metro” will connect Kochi, in Kerala state, with 10 nearby islands in the Arabian Sea. Guests can book tickets online and use a QR code.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared at an April 25 ceremony to reveal the new watercraft.
“Our endeavor is to provide made-in-India solutions suited to local conditions. Be it semi-high-speed trains, regional rapid transport systems, ferries, (or) ropeways, such systems are being prepared wherever needed,” he said.
Modi added that increased connectivity via the new ferries could improve “backwater tourism.”
Areas accessible primarily by smaller watercraft are known as backwaters. In Kerala, some can only be reached by hiring a small canoe steered by an experienced local guide. As a result, these rural communities don’t get as many tourists.
“Kerala has a lot to offer to the country and the world. I am sure this experiment being done in Kerala will become a model for other states of the country as well,” the prime minister added.
Upgrading roads, railways, and metro systems has been a big initiative for the prime minister ahead of the G20, which India will host in September.
As it becomes the most populous country in the world, India has made no secret of its tourism ambitions.
Indian tourism secretary Arvind Singh has said that his administration plans to create 50 new tourism destinations and 59 flight routes in order to make it easier for visitors to access more parts of the country.
Kochi’s water metro system is just the latest in a string of big infrastructure and travel announcements in India.
The world’s longest river cruise departed from Varanasi in January, with a 51-day itinerary through multiple Indian states and neighboring Bangladesh.
Then, Kolkata’s metro system — the oldest in the country — revealed its first ever underwater line, which travels under the Hooghly River. It will open to the public later this year.
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CNN’s Sania Farooqi contributed reporting.