Stare plea stumps Railways – Repair road along Joka-BBD Bagh Metro uncertain

The Bengal government has asked the railways to repair a stretch of road between Joka and Taratala damaged by a Metro project whose future is uncertain because of unavailability of land.

The traffic police at a recent meeting asked the Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL), the implementing agency of the Joka-BBD Bag Metro, to immediately take up repairs in various pockets along a 8.5km stretch of Diamond Harbour Road that were damaged during the construction of a via duct for the link. The meeting follows one held by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) with the RVNL on the issue a few days back.

At Friday’s meeting, the police highlighted at least six damaged stretches along the artery — including ones in front of the Ajanta housing estate, Behala tram depot and Thakurpukur police station — that they want the railways to repair immediately to avoid accidents and snarls.

RVNL officials clarified that repairing the stretches was not a problem but added that they were “disturbed” by the proposal as the future of the project was uncertain.

“The government has asked us to ‘restore’ the road and we’ll do it,” said a senior RVNL official overseeing the Joka-BBD project. “But it is disturbing to think that we need to focus on repairing the road even as the future of the project, particularly the stretch beyond Taratala, remains uncertain.”

Metro has highlighted how work on most of the schemes has come to a standstill for various reasons — including the government’s reluctance to help remove squatters and the civic body’s delay in dismantling an old water pipe. Trinamul’s exit from the UPA government has resulted in the state government losing interest in the projects.

Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro withdrew its men and machines from a stretch of the Noapara-Airport-Barasat project as the government has not removed encroachers. Construction company Afcons has demanded a compensation of Rs 257 crore from the railways as it has been unable to start work between Howrah Maidan and Central in the East-West Metro.

Work on the Rs 2619.02-crore Joka-BBD Bag project, covering a stretch of 16.72 km, has made about 25 per cent progress. Earlier this year, the railways had cancelled a tender for setting up a depot at Joka. According to officials, 62 acres had to be acquired from private owners to set up the depot but the state government was yet to hand over the land.

The alignment of the route between Kidderpore and BBD Bag is yet to be decided as the defence ministry is yet to allow a survey to build tracks across the Maidan. The wall of the mint at Majerhat also needs to be shifted by 20 metres for laying the tracks.

“At Kochi (Kerala), where work for Metro is on, two flyovers have been dismantled. Why can’t there be a similar attitude in Calcutta to infrastructure projects?” the RVNL official said. “There is no word on how the project (Joka-BBD Bag Metro) would be carried forward. Instead, it’s all about the repairing stretches.”

Diamond Harbour Road is “technically” under the public works department but in 2010, when RVNL was awarded the contract for constructing the Metro, it was decided that the company would have to maintain the road accounting for the damage caused by movement of heavy construction equipment and vehicles.

“Since work on the Joka-Taratala stretch began, the road space on either side has been considerably reduced, resulting in slow movement of vehicles. The vehicular load is heavy on this stretch and potholes would make matters worse in the monsoon,” said a senior officer of the traffic police who was present at Friday’s meeting.

“We have told them that these spots need immediate repair before the downpour begins. Another round of repair would have to be taken up before the Pujas in October.”

“The state government wanted us to maintain even the drains adjoining this stretch. I also received calls about the maintenance of the lights. Somehow we have dissuaded them from making such requests,” the RVNL official said.

“We don’t want to get into any conflict right now. Orders have been placed and repairs will begin soon. But it remains to be seen whether next time, we would be asked to repair the Bypass as well for the ongoing railway project.”