Union Minister says govt trying to advance operations by six months to Dec 2017
Kolkata (KOAA): The first phase of the proposed East West Metro railway services in Kolkata will be operational latest by June 2018, Babul Supriyo, Union Minister of State for Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, said here on Monday.
Proposed in 2008, the ₹5,000-crore East West Metro Railway project intends to connect eastern and western fringes of the city across a 15-km stretch across two phases.
Phase 1 of the project – an (approx) 8 km stretch – will connect the IT hub of Salt Lake (in the East) to the city’s central part, Sealdah.
“Phase 1 should be operational by June 2018. But I am trying to advance the commencement by six months to December 2017,” he said during an interactive session organised by the MCCI.
Construction work that had come to a stand still for the last four years has already begun, he added. Initially, it was an issue over relocation of several families, particularly squatters and slum dwellers, along a 365 metre stretch that falls in between the proposed route connecting the city to Salt Lake.
Sources indicate that some 43-odd families – 35 tenants and 8 landlords – needed to be shifted.
According to Supriyo, the problems have been “resolved” post building of an additional number of shelters apart from payment of “monetary compensation”.
Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRCL) and the West Bengal Government have already built 60-odd temporary shelters to aid relocation.
(KMRCL is a special purpose vehicle, set up for construction of the metro. Initially, it was a JV between the West Bengal Government and the Ministry of Urban Development. Later the Railway Ministry took over the West Bengal government’s stake.)
Phase 2 in trouble
However, re-locating these families is just one part of the problem. Work on the second phase too has come to a halt because of similar complications.
The second phase of the project will connect the twin cities of Kolkata and Howrah, covering a stretch of about 7 km between Sealdah (in Central Kolkata) and Howrah Maidan (West of Kolkata). This part suffered primarily because of route realignment and unavailability of land. This realignment will add not just an extra 2 km to the route but also increase costs by an estimated ₹750 crore, according to report by Rites.
The Minister too confirmed the cost escalation because of the route re-alignment.
However, the problem, Supriyo said, is that the re-aligned route would require fresh clearances from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The proposed route (new one) would ensure construction being carried out within a 40 metre radius of the heritage structure – “Old Currency Building”.
“We have agreed, in-principle, to the route realignment proposed by the State government. But new laws do not allow construction with a 100-meter radius of protected monuments. We need to take clearances and permissions from the ASI, may be as a special case, before work can start,” he said.