Two-year wait for 15m underpass

An underpass that was supposed to be built within four months has been in the making for almost two years near Jadavpur railway station.

Work on the underpass connecting KS Roy Road at Jadavpur and Jheel Road at Garfa across 15m-wide railway tracks started in August 2011 and was supposed to be completed by the end of the year.

Problems ranging from land acquisition to escalating cost have delayed the project and it is uncertain whether it will be completed in the next two months.

Metro visited the construction site last week and found the incomplete subway and the part of it above the ground filled with water — with garbage floating — thus becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

One of the entrances to the subway is still incomplete and the only worker at the spot said electrical and sewerage connections had not been created.

Wooden planks, stone chips, nails and iron rods were lying dumped around the structure, making crossing the tracks more challenging for pedestrians.

“I had just joined a master’s degree programme at Jadavpur University when the work started. Now I am on the verge of completing the course but the underpass is a long way from completion. It is extremely risky to cross the railway tracks on foot while dodging the construction materials. People often nick or twist their ankles in the process,” said Soma Ganguly, a resident of Garfa.

Eastern Railway had laid the foundation stone of the underpass in early 2011 and handed over the work to Cosmos Construction, a Naihati based private company that mainly builds such underpasses and subways.

The underpass — of the kind built near the Milan Mela fairground, off the EM Bypass, in less than two months before this year’s Book Fair — has already missed three deadlines and is set to miss the next one in July 2013, according to railway sources.

Residents said senior engineers visited the site only once in a while, usually between 10am and 10.30am. Taking advantage of their absence, labourers skip work often.

According to railway officials, the ground beneath the tracks had underground utilities like CESC cables and CMC water pipelines that took more than a year to be shifted.

“We did not have a map of the underground utilities. Hence, we found the cables and pipelines after digging up the ground. We had to write several times to the authorities concerned, who initially declined to shift them. The utilities were finally shifted over a year,” said an Eastern Railway official.

The second hurdle was in the form of shopkeepers and people who had encroached land beside the rail lines.

The encroachers stalled work “for over four months” till local Trinamul Congress leaders and Eastern Railway officials met and persuaded them to move.

“Some local residents were creating obstructions but we made them understand the potential benefits of the underpass. That was a long time ago. I don’t know why railway officials could not finish such a simple job,” said the Trinamul councillor of ward 104, Tarakeshwar Chakraborty,

The engineers said work began in earnest from August last year but after quite a bit of progress, it stopped again following subsidence on a stretch, said an engineer involved with the project.

“Water leaking from a nearby pipeline was seeping into the ground and loosening the soil. As a result the ground gave away and we had to start building again,” said the engineer.

“Sixty per cent” of the construction work has been completed since but a recently shifted pipeline has sprung a similar leak.“We have asked the CMC officials to repair the pipeline but they are delaying the process. If the leak is not repaired immediately, there might be subsidence like before,” said a railway official.

While the railway has a list of alibis ready, the construction company has another story to tell.

According to a company official, the initial projected cost of Rs 70 lakh has risen to Rs 95 lakh because of the delay but the authorities are refusing to pay the additional amount.

“The railway demanded a reason behind the cost escalation. We have given them the data regarding the expenditure but they have paid us only Rs 30 lakh so far. We can complete the structure within a month of the railway clearing our dues. But till then, why should we spend out of our own pockets?” said the official.

A senior official of Eastern Railway said: “There are discrepancies in the bills the company has forwarded to us. We are conducting an inquiry but that does not have any impact on the pace of work.