Kolkata metro (Photo Credit: East-West Corridor Metro Services in Kolkata launched)
Kolkata got its second Metro line on Thursday -- 36 years after the country’s first underground railway system came into being in the city—with the first phase of the East-West Metro being flagged off by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal. The inaugural train zoomed off from Sector V station to traverse a 4.88-km distance to Salt Lake Stadium, as Goyal said that the entire 16.5-km stretch of the corridor - till Howrah Maidan - is likely to be completed in two years.
"The entire stretch of the East-West Metro corridor, from Sector 5 to Howrah Maidan, is likely to be completed in two years, provided bottlenecks affecting the route are cleared through local support," he said, during his speech. Commercial services, connecting six overground stations - Sector V, Karunamoyee, Central Park, City Centre, Bengal Chemical and Salt Lake Stadium stations - will commence on Friday.
The Kolkata Metro Under the Ministry of Railways is now all set to launch East-West Corridor Metro Services in Kolkata, West Bengal. The first phase of the East West Metro corridor connecting Sector V with Salt Lake Stadium in the city inaugurated today. #NewKolkataMetro pic.twitter.com/N2LOifjVSX— Eastern Railway (@EasternRailway) February 13, 2020
Obliquely blaming the Trinamool Congress government for delay in completion of work on the East-West Metro corridor, Goyal said, "Though work on the project started in 2009, it was stalled from 2012 to 2015 on the pretext of route realignment." He said that his predecessor, Suresh Prabhu, had taken care of the realignment work, following which construction on the stretch resumed.
"The delay also caused cost escalation," Goyal said, adding that Rs 6,500 crore have so far been spent for the East-West Metro project.
The TMC leadership, however, boycotted Thursday’s inauguration, after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's name was found missing from the invitation card for the programme. Local MLA and minister in the Mamata Banerjee government, Sujit Bose, MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and Bidhannagar Mayor Krishna Chakraborty, who were invited to the inauguration, skipped the event, in protest against the "insult meted out to the chief minister by not inviting her".
The Metro project, scheduled to be completed by June 2021, had faced an unprecedented jolt last year, when a tunnel-boring machine hit an aquifer in Bowbazar area of the city, causing severe ground subsidence and damage to several buildings.
The accident further delayed the completion of work by another year, with the authorities now eyeing a 2022 deadline. Goyal said that the first underground station of the Metro corridor - Phoolbagan - would be ready within three to four months and services will be extended by October.
"Other Metro railway projects in the city are also getting affected owing to land issues. They need more cooperation of the state government," he insisted. The five ongoing Metro railway projects in the city have been allotted a budgetary grant of Rs 1,542 crore for fiscal 2020-21. The East-West Metro corridor has received a grant of Rs 905 crore—the highest among the five projects currently underway in Kolkata.
The New Garia-NSCBI Airport link, slated to be completed by June 2021, has been allotted Rs 328 crore, while the Noapara-Barasat line has received a grant of Rs 200 crore. Another 16.6-km Joka-BBD Bag route, connecting the south-eastern suburbs of Behala with the heart of the city, has been granted Rs 99 crore, and the Barrackpore-Baranagar and Dakshineswar stretch, covering a distance of 14.5 km, allotted Rs 10 crore. "I hope the projects will be completed at the earliest so that Metro becomes the most-preferred transport mode in Kolkata and in adjoining areas," the minister added.
Union Minister Babul Supriyo, who also attended Thursday’s inauguration, said the occasion would have been a happier one, had representatives of the state government graced it. Metro general manager Manoj Joshi said that the East-West Metro will carry a passenger load of 7 to 8 lakh daily, when the full stretch - from Sector V to Howrah Maidan - becomes operational.