Hyderabad Metro runs into hard rocks – KCR sought change in Metro Rail alignment

हैदराबाद Hyderabad (HYD): The builder and operator of the Metro project, Larsen & Toubro is unsure of continuing Metro construction underground due to the presence of hard rocks, boulders and the topography of the soil.  On Saturday, the top metro rail officials including Hyderabad Metro Rail Managing Director N.V.S. Reddy and L&T Metro Rail (L&TMRH), the concessionaire building the project, and its Head, Engineering & Construction S.N.Subrahmanyan called on the Chief Minister.  Although highly placed sources had indicated that it was only a “courtesy call”, it is reliably learnt that when both sides exchanged views on the ongoing work, Mr.Rao, while expressing his desire that the L&T should be part of the reconstruction of Telangana, also wanted the firm to “examine” the changes suggested. L&T Chairman A.M. Naik too was supposed to have come, but could not make it for the meeting.

Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on Friday announced that the Hyderabad Metro Rail alignment will be changed soon to protect heritage structures in the city.

Replying to the debate on the motion of thanks to the Governor’s Address in the State Assembly, KCR said he was determined to implement his earlier demands on metro rail. “I have already instructed the metro rail officials to change the alignment,” he informed the House. Elaborating on how he wants it changed, he pointed at underground routes in some cities.

“We are planning to have an underground route near the Assembly to protect heritage buildings. I will not allow the destruction of Sultan Bazar at any cost. I will not allow metro rail in Sultan Bazar. The alignment will be changed,” the Chief Minister asserted.

When contacted, officials of the Hyderabad Metro Rail told Express on condition of anonymity there was a need for fresh proposals since the State government is determined to change the alignment. The government move would mean delay in completion of the metro rail project at least by a few months.

If the alignment is changed, land acquisition process has to commence afresh which is time consuming and may face stiff opposition from land owners. The affected parties may move the High Court if the alignment is changed at Badi Chowdi and Sultan Bazar. And, underground metro rail is going to be a costly affair too, officials said, adding it would be double than the expenditure being incurred on the elevated system. They also argued that most of the developed countries have only elevated metro rail.

In his speech, KCR also said he would soon hold a meeting with officials to resolve the perennial drainage problem in the city. “There are no good master plans for the city. That is why the drainage problems are cropping up. We will come up with a master plan to make Hyderabad a world-class city,” he said. He reiterated his government would make Hyderabad a slum-free city. “For this, the government will borrow a loan of Rs 5,000-10,000 crore from Hudco. Flats will also be constructed for weaker sections in the city,” he promised.

Land acquisition to be a problem

Officials of the Hyderabad Metro Rail told Express on condition of anonymity there was a need for fresh proposals since the government is determined to change alignment. The government move would mean delay in completion of the metro rail project by a few more months, at least. If the alignment is changed, land acquisition process has to commence afresh.

Cost escalation from the contracted price of Rs.12,132 crore and extension of the deadline of 2017 for completing the 72-km stretch is inevitable if the government’s demand for taking the metro project underground at the three sites is taken up.

Metro Rail officials are tight-lipped about the latest development, but going by the available information, it could cost more than Rs.500 crore per km as against Rs. 200 crore per km to take the metro line underground.

Even if the government had offered to foot the bill for the additional expenditure, it is not all that easy to just bring the line below ground at the three designated spots from a predominantly elevated viaduct.

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