Kolkata Metro Route rejig plan rejected

The agency implementing the East-West Metro Rail project on Wednesday scrapped the state government’s proposal for a route realignment to avoid acquiring land in central Calcutta, the decks for which had been cleared by Calcutta High Court earlier this year.

The decision was taken at a board meeting of the Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation in Delhi on Wednesday.

“The board has decided that the state government’s proposal for a realignment between Sealdah and Howrah Maidan is not feasible. If the state government does not agree to the original route between Sealdah and Howrah Maidan via Bowbazar and BBD Bag, work won’t start,” Hemant Kumar Sharma, managing director of the KMRC, told Metro.

Sharma’s statement seals the status quo over the 14.67-km project against the backdrop of the government’s reluctance to make available the originally earmarked two acres in Bowbazar and BBD Bag. This is despite a division bench’s interim stay on a lower court’s order in favour of 90 families who had asked for their land to be returned.

This is of course not the first instance of the state government’s aversion to acquiring land and removing encroachments that have prevented work from starting or resuming in some stretches of the Rs 4,875 crore project.

Afcons, the infrastructure arm of Shapoorji Pallonji, has sought Rs 257 crore in compensation for not being able to start building the Bowbazar-BBD Bag stretch of the project in three years because of the government’s failure to hand over the required two acres.

Metro highlighted on Wednesday how another company, Gammon India, had pulled out of the stretch between Sector V and Beleghata after waiting long for the government to relocate 150 families in Salt Lake’s Duttabad.

Managing director Sharma said the alternative routes proposed by the state government were impractical.

In the alternative blueprint, the tracks between Sealdah and Howrah Maidan pass through the Maidan area that is under the army. “It will be difficult to get the army’s go-ahead to construct an underground tunnel through the Maidan,” Sharma said.

Another Metro project — from Joka to BBD Bag — has been delayed for a similar reason. The railways have yet to get the army’s permission to lay tracks in the vicinity of Victoria Memorial.

Even if the state’s proposal for a route realignment were to be accepted, that would entail tracks under heritage addresses like Writers’ Buildings and Raj Bhavan. The tracks would also need to be routed through Subodh Mullick Square, which has a water supply station.

Japan International Co-operation Agency, the prime lender to the project, has already rejected any such plan.