Expense boost for Calcutta Metro funds flow

The only project which received less money compared with 2017-18 was East-West Metro. Around 400m of the viaduct of the New Garia-airport Metro has come up on a water body along the EM Bypass near the Chingrighata crossing. The construction of the stretch was stalled since 2011 because the railways were not getting permission from the state government.

KOLKATA: The railways allotted almost double the money for Calcutta’s Metro projects in 2018-19 compared with the previous fiscal and more than 98 per cent of the allocation was utilised, Metro Railway officials said.

The railway ministry had granted Rs 776.22 crore for four Metro projects in 2018-19, of which Rs 764.54 crore was spent. The same projects had been granted Rs 436.06 crore in 2017-18, of which Rs 424.6 crore could be spent.

Metro officials said more money could have been spent had the construction of the Majerhat station of the Joka-Esplanade Metro not been stalled for several months following the collapse of the Majerhat bridge in September last year.

The only project which received less money compared with 2017-18 was East-West Metro, funded by the railways, Japan International Cooperation Agency and the urban development ministry.

Railway officials said they were expecting more money for the projects this year because railway minister Piyush Goyal had said funds allocation would be linked to progress of work.

“All projects will be taken up as and when we get the land for each project. The railways will focus on those projects and give enhanced capital to those for which land is available with the railways,” Goyal had said at a news conference in June last year.

All Metro projects in the city have missed multiple deadlines and are running late by several years because of land logjams.

The state government had at one point refused to shift encroachers from the routes of several projects. Getting clearance was another issue in projects where multiple agencies were involved.

The situation changed over the past couple of years with the state government agreeing to shift encroachers.

“In 2018-19, spending has been near 100 per cent despite almost double the amount received compared with the previous year. Funds will not be any hindrance if land is available,” Metro spokesperson Indrani Banerjee said.

In the Noapara-Dakshineswar project, where work was stuck for years because of encroachments, 95 per cent of the construction of the viaduct (on which tracks will be laid) is over, officials said. Work on laying the tracks and signalling system has started.

“There was remarkable progress in the one year since the encroachers had been shifted (from the Noapara-Dakshineswar route),” an official involved in the project said.

“Significant progress” has also been achieved in the New Garia-airport project, though work is still stalled at many places.

Late arrival of permission from the irrigation department delayed the construction of the viaduct of the New Garia-airport Metro over a water body along the Bypass.

“Around 400m of the viaduct has been built on the water body. The viaduct takes a curve after the Metropolitan crossing on the Bypass and enters Salt Lake through the Chingrighata crossing,” an official said.

“There is still a 250m gap between the viaduct on the water body and the one in Salt Lake. There are two buildings on the way. The Beleghata traffic guard, too, needs to be shifted.”

Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL), the implementing agency of the New Garia-airport project, has given more than Rs 100 crore to build the underground station at the Calcutta airport. Work is on at the site.

In 2010-11, when these projects were included in the railway budget during the tenure of Mamata Banerjee as railway minister, about Rs 4,000 crore had been allocated. But the bulk of the amount could not be spent because land was unavailable.

In case of East-West Metro, around Rs 950 crore was received in 2018-19, compared with about Rs 1,500 crore the previous fiscal. “This was because the tunnel-boring work between Esplanade and Sealdah did not start. The work has started recently and so more funds are expected,” said an official of Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation, the implementing agency of the project, which will link Sector V with Howrah Maidan.