Centre’s nod sought to end Kolkata’s East West Metro logjam: Supriyo

KOLKATA: In a bid to clear a crucial bottleneck in the proposed East West Metro Rail in the eastern metropolis, a Union Cabinet note has been prepared to seek exemption of embargo on construction within 100 metres of heritage buildings, a minister said on Monday.

“Once approved by the Cabinet, it would facilitate laying of tracks near three such structures in the Metro corridor,” Union Minister of State for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprise Babul Supriyo told the media here.

According to guidelines of the Ministry of Culture, construction within 100 metres of heritage buildings and archaeological sites is prohibited.

“Some technical issues have emerged in Phase II (Sealdah to Howrah Maidan) of the project. A Cabinet note has been prepared seeking exemption from the embargo on construction within 100 metres of the heritage buildings, as laid down in the guidelines, for laying of tracks. The tracks are about 30 metres from three such buildings,” he said.

“The nod from the Cabinet has been sought and I do not know what would be its decision. A feedback is expected soon given the urgency of the project,” he added.

Beth El synagogue, David Maghen synagogue and the Currency building are the three heritage sites situated along the proposed East West Metro corridor.

Supriyo said the Ministry of Railway and the West Bengal government had earlier requested the Ministry of Culture to consider the guidelines.

“The way technology has advanced in the last five years, such embargos need to be reviewed,” Supriyo said.

“IIT-Kharagpur was asked to prepare a study report to examine whether laying of Metro tracks would be harmful or not to such buildings. They submitted the report saying no harm is expected if tracks pass by 30 metres away from these buildings,” he said.

Kicking off a new chapter in India’s transport history, the nearly Rs 9,000-crore project envisages the country’s first-ever railway tunnel under a riverbed.

A tunnel boring machine (TBM) started off its arduous 520-metre work under the Hooghly river here on Saturday, taking forward the work on the long-delayed 16.6-km-long East West Metro project.

The minister on Monday entered the tunnel for inspection.

He was handed over two silver containers containing soil of the river. “I will present one container to the Prime Minister and will keep the other for myself,” he said.

Supriyo said the commercial operation of the first phase of the project from Salt Lake Sector V to Sealdah Station would start from June next year.

Due to some land-related issues, the West Bengal government had proposed a change in alignment in Phase II of the project and it got halted.

The target date for completion of the Phase II, connecting Sealdah with Howrah Maidan, is August 2019.

The Metro rail project was originally slated to be operational by 2012, but the deadline got pushed back repeatedly due to land and other issues.

The project has a total elevated portion of 5.8 km, while the underground part covers 10.8 km.

The projected daily passenger load is seven lakh in 2020, 8.10 lakh in 2025 and nine lakh in 2035. The total number of stations is 12 — six elevated and six underground.