Kolkata based Merchants Chamber of Commerce & Industry quizzes Metro Railway Kolkata GM out of nowhere

Kolkata (KOAA): Merchants Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Arun K Saraf on Wednesday asked Metro Railway GM Radhey Shyam if the proposed Subodh Mullick Square station had been dropped from the East-West Metro map to avoid displacement of hawkers. The GM had no answer. Neither could he give a deadline for completion of the projects.

The Joka-BBD Bag metro rail project in the West Bengal capital that had run into land acquisition issues may be completed in three years following talks with the Ministries of Defence and Finance which raised objections, a top metro official said here on Wednesday. A 16.72-km-long metro line connecting Joka on the southern fringes of the city with BBD Bagh in central Kolkata was announced by then railways minister Mamata Banerjee in 2010-11.

Shyam said that they had been able to spend only Rs 2,100 crore of the Rs 12,200 crore allotted for five Metro projects. “Every year, we spend only about Rs 580 crore. There are land issues in some places,” he said, adding that 384 encroachments are holding up the Noapara-Baranagar-Dakshineswar stretch and 500 encroachments are hampering the Noapara-airport route. “We have still not got land in Joka. There has been some progress after a meeting with the state government. Though we sent acquisition notices, people have not come forward,” Shyam said.

The Joka-BBD Bag link will take three years to complete after land problems are resolved. “Phase-I of the East West Metro (Sector-V to Sealdah) will hopefully be completed by June 2018. Work on the New Garia-Airport stretch is on and should be over in the next three years. The Baranagar-Barrackpore stretch continues to face hurdles over shifting of water pipelines,” the Metro GM added.

Refusing to give a time frame about the issues being sorted out, Radhey Shyam said the projected would be completed by three years once the issues are resolved.

The problem area has been between Mominpur and Esplanade where the land belongs to the army.

While the union finance ministry objected to a proposed viaduct in front of the mint in Alipore, “we are hopeful all the issues will be resolved,” he said.

During the interaction, Saraf brought up the issue of obsolete rakes and poor maintenance. Shyam said new rakes would start arriving in 1-2 years. Saraf wanted to know whether another fare hike is on the cards. When the minimum bus fare in Kolkata is Rs 6, should the Metro persist with Rs 5, he wondered. “Metro’s operating ratio is over 2.5 and this is due to low fares. We are trying to earn revenue from advertisements,” Shyam said.