Tuesday, June 15

Best-case scenario: Phoolbagan Metro services by April

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Now that East-West Metro’s operations on the elevated Salt Lake section are about to start, Metro Railway will be inviting the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) to inspect the underground stretch till Phoolbagan later this month. Officials hope to extend services till Phoolbagan station by April. The 5km Sector V-Salt Lake corridor will be opened to the public on February 13. But not many people are expected to use the section and Metro Railway is likely to incur losses.

The CRS, under the ministry of civil aviation, gives the safety clearance to new Metro routes in the country. “We shall try and apply for the CRS’s inspection of the 1km stretch between Salt Lake Stadium and Phoolbagan this month. Hopefully, the Phoolbagan extension can be opened in April,” a senior Metro official told TOI on Monday.

The 16.5km East-West Metro — that will eventually link Salt Lake’s Sector V with Howrah Station — is being built by Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC) and will be operated by Metro Railway, that operates the north-south Metro.

Officials said the truncated operations can be somewhat viable if services are extended to Phoolbagan where the underground station has been built. The tunnel goes up to Sealdah. The stretch (till Salt Lake Stadium) that is ready to begin operations is elevated. From here, a ramp at Subhas Sarovar leads the tracks down to Phoolbagan station.

But the CRS inspection must be preceded by a clearance for the signalling system from French agency Certifier. On June 1 last year, East-West Metro’s first underground trial run took place as the train chugged 17m below the surface into Phoolbagan station. At that time, the deadline for the extension was October, 2019.

Officials said not many — especially from Sector V — would be able to avail the services because the Sector V station at College More is far from the IT hub. Even if some IT professionals try to walk for 10 minutes or more through the CSTC depot or the road next to Wipro to reach Sector V station, chances are most will prefer riding buses or autos instead.

But once the Phoolbagan extension is operational, commuters will be able to travel from Sealdah to Phoolbagan in autos and take the Metro till Sector V or elsewhere in Salt Lake. There are two auto routes catering to commuters in this section.

Officials said a passengers’ survey can be undertaken only after the Salt Lake services start. “But we are sure that it will merely be a joyride. To make the section viable, the Phoolbagan extension is must,” an official said, adding that, “The East-West Metro will receive a major boost when services are extended till Sealdah.” But the Sealdah extension will be possible only when the 2.45km tunnelling between Esplanade and Sealdah is complete.

This last leg of the tunnelling was stalled after a tunnel boring machine hit an aquifer on August 31 that caused large-scale subsidence, in which several Bowbazar fell like a pack of cards.


Source: Times of India

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