Kolkata HC wants East-West Metro dispute sorted out; Tunnel logjam solved

कोलकाता Kolkata (KOAA):  The New Year has started with solutions for the troubles that have plagued the East-West Metro project for years. After the decision to start work on the alignment-neutral stretch, all stakeholders have now unanimously zeroed in on the site for the tunnel-boring machine’s retrieval shaft. They have, in presence of Justice Soumitra Pal, decided to construct the shaft to the east of Lal Dighi instead of the Port area.

Justice Pal has asked the state government to put its stamp of approval on the site before January 30. Simultaneously, Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC), the executing agency for the project, would appraise the court of its decision on the relocated site on January 30.

The counsel of Afcons Transtonnelstory, the contractor for the project, Had earlier told the court that they
wanted to resume the tunnel-boring job in the alignment-neutral stretch where change of alignment would make no difference. On Thursday, he said the agency would need 18 months to complete the tunnel below the riverbed and reach the retrieval-shaft where the 24-metre wide and 22-metre long tunnel-boring machine (TBM) would be dismantled and lifted to the surface.

“But we need to be sure about the alignment — original or alternative — within six months,” he added.

The East-West corridor construction came to a grinding halt with dispute over alignment from Sealdah to Mahakaran. While KMRC insisted on sticking to the original alignment — Sealdah-Bowbazar-Mahakaran — the state government proposed an alternative alignment — Sealdah-Wellington-Esplanade-Mahakaran.

Frustrated over arguments and counter-arguments on the alignment, Justice Nadira Patherya had formed a committee of stakeholders for unanimity on the alignment. The committee is supposed to meet on January 20.

On Thursday, Justice Pal also mentioned that no construction can be done within 100 meters of two nationally protected monuments — Magen David and Bethlehem Synagogue.

Senior KMRC officers admitted that chances were high that the project would ultimately go for the alternative alignment. The Central Calcutta Traders’ Welfare Association has moved to the Supreme Court against their eviction from Bowbazar, the proposed site for Central Station. Moreover, the social cost for the eviction and rehabilitation is high if the original alignment is followed. Plus there’s the problem of massive traffic diversion.

On the other hand, there might be some cost escalation in the alternative alignment but the social cost would be less. Kolkata Municipal Corporation needs to relocate some of the underground utility services, though.