Saturday, August 24

After seven years, Esplanade corridor of Joka Metro gets Rly Board green light

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After a wait of seven years, the Joka-Majerhat Metro has finally received an approval from the Railway Board to extend the corridor till Esplanade, where it will have an interface with the North-South and East-West Metro links. The Board has sanctioned Rs 2,825 crore for the rest of the line, much of which will be underground.

The project, originally conceived by the Mamata Banerjee when she was the railway minister way back in 2010-11, had faced multiple hurdles, such as non-availability of land, not getting statutory clearances from certain authorities and the collapse of the Majerhat Bridge. But the biggest stumbling block was the wait for an approval of “material modification” of the corridor beyond Mominpore.

But the Railway Board finally gave its nod for the corridor till Esplanade on July 4, just a day before the Union Budget, showing some light at the end of the tunnel, said a railway official. The state government’s active participation in the project helped in the issuing of the sanction, he said. The state chief secretary himself kept chairing meetings to clear the blocks and also wrote to the Railway Board chairman, asking for the approval, said a state transport department official. The budget for civil engineering, including the cost of burrowing underground tunnels by boring machines, would be Rs 2,051 crore and that of electrical work Rs 337 crore, an official said. Rail Vikash Nigam Limited (RVNL), the executing agency of the project, will float tenders and start relocating underground utility cables after obtaining necessary clearances.

The corridor was originally designed as an entirely elevated project. However, when the ministry of defence objected to the corridor running along Kidderpore Road, overlooking the Eastern Command Headquarters at Fort William, Metro engineers had to modify the alignment and make much of it underground. But the modification called for a huge cost escalation as the budget for the elevated corridor would have been less than one-third of that meant for an underground line.

According to the realigned design, the tracks will run along Diamond Harbour Road till Mominpore, from where it will go underground via Kidderpore and Victoria Memorial Hall to Park Street and Esplanade. For the underground stretch, the tunnel boring machine is supposed to be lowered at Maidan. “But ever since the underground plan was drawn up, the Railway Board showed no interest in the capital intensive underground project. The allocation for the elevated Joka-Majerhat portion had trickled down. But much of that fund would remain unspent because of land issues,” said an official. “Behala residents had given up all hope of a smooth Metro commute beyond Majerhat as the Metro Rail set a deadline for running a truncated Joka-Majerhat in 2021.”

However, despite the land acquisition problems plaguing the project, substantial construction was carried out over the past year, leading the railways to allot almost double the funds in 2018-19, compared to that in the previous fiscals, and nearly all the money had been utilized, an official added.

Source: Times of India

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