East-West Metro: Railway Board to figure out cost escalation on route re-alignment of E-W Metro

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Kolkata: Railway Board wants the implementing agency of East-West Metro to figure out the cost escalation that would result from a route alignment as suggested by the state government before considering the proposed change.  The Railway Board has written to the Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation Ltd. (KMRCL), the implementing agency, saying the additional cost involved in changing the alignment should be discussed with the state government before a decision was taken.

Sources said it would take at least Rs 350 crore extra if the government’s proposed alignment was accepted. An additional Rs 44 crore will be needed to build a retrieval shaft at Laldighi to bring out a tunnel boring machine.

Officials monitoring the project said the railways’ stand would lead to a further delay on the stretch between Howrah Maidan and Sealdah. “This is another example of how the railways is apparently dragging its feet on the state’s offer of land in Laldighi to build a retrieval shaft for the equipment that will be used to bore a tunnel under the Hooghly for the East-West tracks,” an official said.

The letter to the implementing agency, signed by Railway Board representative A.K. Jha, states: “Jurisdiction of the proposed additional scope of work and cost implementation has to be evaluated by KMRCL as the project implementing authority after necessary discussions with the government of West Bengal.”  “The proposal of retrieval shaft at Laldighi is not on the approved alignment of the Kolkata East-West Metro corridor project as per DPR (detailed project report),” the letter stated.  Jha is also managing director of the metro railway corporation.

He had skipped a meeting attended by officials of the corporation and various state agencies to take a decision on starting work on the Howrah Maidan-Sealdah stretch.

Calcutta High Court had last Friday directed the corporation to ask the Railway Board whether it would accept the proposal to build a retrieval shaft near Laldighi. The agency has to state its stand in an affidavit to be filed by Thursday. The next hearing is scheduled for Friday.

The high court had formed a committee and asked it to discuss and inform it on January 30 how the railways, urban development ministry and the state government planned to start boring a tunnel under the Hooghly.

“It was informally agreed after several rounds of discussion that the shaft would be built at Laldighi. Even the state government, which was stonewalling all attempts at getting work started, had promised to shift all underground utilities. Now this letter from the Railway Board representative comes as a surprise,” said a railway official.

The railways’ decision is significant because it holds 74 per cent stake in the project, against 24 per cent by the urban development ministry.

“The proposed new alignment will ensure less disruption of traffic. Fewer people and hawkers will need to be rehabilitated and lesser number of utilities will require to be shifted,” state transport secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay said.

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