Barrackpore, Barasat Metro routes unlikely without State Govt’s help in clearing Land encroachments: Piyush Goyal

KOLKATA: Given the status of Metro projects in Kolkata, like Joka-BBD Bag and Kavi Subhas-Airport routes, it seems highly unlikely that the stretches between Noapara-Barasat and Baranagar-Barrackpore will ever see the light of day unless the state government clears encroachments and helps acquire land, railways minister Piyush Goyal said on Monday.

Even the future of the 16.75km Joka-BBD Bag link hangs in balance with Goyal telling officials to consider whether this project should be scrapped once and for all. Implementing agency Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL) has been able to spend only about Rs 763.60 crore of the total project cost of Rs 2,913.50 for the Joka-BBD Bag line till June, 2018. This is barely 26% of the total cost since 2010-11, when the project was sanctioned.

Only 65% of land for the Joka depot has been acquired till now and 59 encroachments at different stations need to be shifted.

The proposal for material modification of the underground stretch between Mominpore and Esplanade has also been sent to the Railway Board on June 25, 2018, and awaiting sanction.

“Projects can’t progress unless the state government helps in the land acquisition process and shifts encroachers. Between Noapara and the airport, 750 sq m need to be acquired and three residential buildings demolished in the Digla Mouza.

For the stretch between the airport and New Barrackpore, an additional cost of Rs 1,615 crore will be required for material modification.

The proposal has been sent to the Railway Board on June 26, 2018. Between New Barrackpore and Barasat, nearly 2,000 encroachments have to be shifted. In this stretch, 23,000 sq m private land needs to be acquired and 86 buildings demolished. We will also require 30 hectare private cultivable land at Barasat for a car depot. Work can start only if we get all of these,” Goyal said.

Metro Railway expects the 6.873km Noapara-Airport stretch to be commissioned by June, 2021, but any progress beyond that seems unlikely at the moment. The same holds true for the Baranagar-Barrackpore Metro. While officials hope to commission the 4.012km Noapara to Dakshineswar (via Baranagar) link by October, 2019, there seems little possibility of another line stretching northward from Baranagar towards Barrackpore.

“The Railway Board chairman has made it clear to the state secretary that fresh sanction will be required for any new alignment. A brief report on an alignment via Kalyani Expressway was submitted by the chief secretary on May 30 and this has been submitted to the Railway Board with remarks by RVNL on June 14,” an official said.

The official explained why an alignment along the Kalyani Expressway to Barrackpore is not a viable option. “The idea is to have the Metro alignment as close to the existing Eastern Railway suburban line as possible to help people living along B T Road and reduce congestion in the suburban section. It would make no sense if people had to travel an additional 3-4km by road to reach a Metro station,” he said.