Kolkata (KOAA): How long before the railways succeeds in evicting squatters from its own land to facilitate the ongoing Metro Railway projects in Kolkata and the suburbs? Not before the 2016 Assembly elections at least. Even the significantly short stretch between Noapara and Dakshineswar via.Baranagar may take up to two more years to complete, Metro Railway general manager Radhey Shyam said.
“There are sufficient funds. A new contract has been awarded for the Noapara – Dakshineswar stretch but there are nearly 450 encroachments beyond Noapara. We have spoken to the state government but no solution is in sight. So far as the Airport – Barasat stretch is concerned, we have had to foreclose two contracts already. This is part of the Noapara – Airport – Barasat link. We have also had to change the overhead alignment at the airport. The station there will now be underground. There are nearly 800 squatters between Noapara and Dumdum Cantonment. There are also 39 encroachments between Dumdum Cantonment and the Airport. We are holding talks with the state government on this. The Duttabad land hurdle in the East – West Metro could be sorted out with help from the state government. We hope for something on these lines,” Shyam said.
There is also problem with land acquisition for the Joka depot. Talks are continuing with the Minsitries of Finance and Defence over use of land for the alignment. There is also not much scope for improvement in existing Metro services for the next couple of years. The Metro presently operates with 27 rakes, 14 of which are air-conditioned. Orders have been placed for 16 more. While Integral Coach Factory, Perambur, will build two, the remaining will be imported from China.
“The new rakes will be three-phase ones. We have placed orders with the Chinese company in the last week of February. These should start arriving after two years. We will get the ones from ICF before that. We will also construct the third platform at Mahanayak Uttam Kumar (Tollygunge). This will help in originating and terminating trains from that station,” Shyam said.
The Metro has achieved better results in 2014-15 than ever before. While passenger earnings have increased from Rs 130.44 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 171.77 crore in the last fiscal, the operating ratio has dropped from 303% to 253.69%.
“The operating ratio has come down but we haven’t yet succeeded in bringing it down below 100 which should be the aim. We succeeded in carrying 18.31 crore passengers in 2014-15. This means that five lakh passengers used the services every day on an average. We are replacing the old AC plants at Kalighat and Rabindra Sadan with new ones. These will be commissioned by September, 2015. Two new lifts will also be installed at Dumdum,” the GM added.