Death knell for Barasat Metro extension project?

KOLKATA, 15 APRIL: Metro Railway has partially cancelled the work-order for the Airport-Barasat Metro corridor project, sounding what may be the death knell for the maiden plan to take Metro to Kolkata’s northern suburbs.

The move comes about a year after work on the Barasat project came to a standstill due to encroachments along the proposed alignment.

The Airport-Barasat Metro route is part of the 20-km Dum Dum-Barasat Metro corridor project that Mamata Banerjee had announced in the 2010-11 Railway Budget at an estimated cost of Rs 2,397 crore. Private construction giant L&T was awarded the contract for constructing the route in two parts ~ a three-km stretch from Barasat to Hridaypur and a 2.70-km stretch from Hridaypur to Madhyamgram.

According to Metro officials, the work-order for the Hridaypur-Madhyamgram stretch has now been foreclosed and deliberation is on to cancel the work-order for the first stretch as well. L&T sources confirmed having received the Metro’s foreclosure notice dated 6 April for the 2.7-km stretch and another letter communicating “the intend to foreclose” the other stretch.

Metro Railway general manger, Mr Radhey Shyam said that they were compelled to cancel a part of the project, as work was not progressing owing to encroachments. “The contractor had started making (compensation) claims for the exorbitant delay, hence we had to foreclose it.”

As regards the three-km Barasat-Hridaypur stretch, Metro officials want to give it some more time. “We hope good sense will dawn on people concerned so that the work can be carried out. The situation is such that due to non-cooperation from local people at the Barasat-end, we are even unable to carry forward the work where there is no encroachment and only an approach to the identified plot is required,” the GM said.

Caught in the impasse, L&T is now keen to get rid of the entire contract.  “We have incurred an expenditure of about Rs 15 crore in pre-cast work, mobilisation of equipments and manpower; but with the work at a standstill for over a year we do not see any immediate hope in the project. Our priority now is to get back the near Rs 15.83 crore that we had deposited with the Metro towards Earnest Money Deposit and Performance Bank Guarantee and compensation for the actual expenses incurred,” said an L&T official.

L&T had started working on the project on 19 October 2011 but the work had to be stopped completely in May 2012 due to encroachment on Railway land identified for the corridor. Metro sources say there are 1,884 hutments and shops standing on the encroached plots, whose owners are not willing to vacate without compensation.