Kolkata Metro: The historic city readying for a transformational transport System

The Kolkata Metro network is likely to cover a length of about 100 kilometres in the next four years.

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Howrah bridge, Kolkata, India

Kolkata : An ancient City with historical Importance

The City of Kolkata made its debut in 1690 as an amalgamation of three humble villages – Sutanuti, Gobindapur and Kalikata. But, it has since grown into a sprawling Metropolis and the principal centre for trade and commerce in Eastern India over the last three centuries and it was also the Capital of the Country for a considerable period. In the course of its long existence, this premier ‘City’, often described as the cultural citadel of India, has witnessed many upheavals –Cultural, Social and Political.  It has also been faced with innumerable problems, of which the transport problem, in particular, has been very acute. This has happened due to a continuous shift towards urbanization and the consequent increase in population – Resident as well as Migrant. Metro Railway, Kolkata feels honoured and pride of itself for becoming the ‘Life Line’ in the field of transport network of this great ‘City’.

A transport System evolved through times

Kolkata is the main business, commercial & financial hub of eastern India & the north eastern states. It is also a major commercial & military port, & the only city in eastern India to have an international airport. Once India’s prime city, the development of the city has lagged far behind the needs of its growing population. Kolkata is in dire need to provide to its citizens the best of amenities available in the country. The relative antiquity of Kolkata and unplanned growth has further exacerbated the problems of inadequate civic amenities in the city. Realizing the magnitude of this problem, the government arduously is trying to place modern infrastructure in the metropolitan city and a number of agencies are working towards that goal.

Only 6.2% of the area of Kolkata is comprised of roads compared to 20%+ for the other comparable metro cities in India. With a vehicle population estimated to be around 1.6 million and 23.50 million transit trips a day in 2011, the city is bursting at its seams. With very little scope to increase the road area in city and a projected vehicle population of 3 million and an estimated 32 million transit trips by 2025, the enormity of the problem could be easily imagined. It was realized early that only road transport would not be adequate to meet the growing transport needs of the population and a rail based system for mass rapid transport is the most viable option to address this need. 

Therefore, the burgeoning transport problem drew the attention of the city planners, the State Government and also the Government of India. It was soon realised that something had to be done and done fast to cope up with the situation. It was Dr. B.C. Roy, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, who for the first time conceived the idea of building an Underground Railway for Kolkata to solve the problems to some extent in 1949. 

A survey was done by a team of French experts but nothing concrete came out. Efforts made to solve the problem by augmenting the existing fleet of public transport vehicles barely touched the fringe of the problem as the roads account for only 4.2% of the surface area in Calcutta as compared to 25% in Delhi and even 30% in other cities. With a view to finding out an alternative solution to alleviate the suffering of the Kolkatans, the Metropolitan Transport Project (Rlys) was set up in 1969. After detailed studies, the MTP (Rlys) came to the conclusion that there was no other alternative but to construct a Mass Rapid Transit System. The MTP (Rlys) prepared a Master Plan in 1971 envisaging construction of five rapid transit lines for the city of Kolkata, totalling to a route length of 97.5km. Of these, the highest priority was given to the busy North-South axis between Dum Dum and Tollygunge over a length of 16.45 km and the work on this project was sanctioned on June 1st 1972. The foundation stone of the project was laid by Smt. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, on December 29, 1972 and the construction work started in 1973-74.

Since the commencement of construction, the project had to contend with several problems such as non-availability of sufficient funds till 1977-78, shifting of underground utilities, court injunctions, irregular supply of vital materials and others. But overcoming innumerable hurdles and crossing all barriers of disbelief, Calcutta Metro, India’s first and Asia’s fifth, became a reality on October 24, 1984 with the commissioning of partial commercial service covering a distance of 3.40 km with five stations between Esplanade and Netaji Bhavan. This was quickly followed by commuter services on another 2.15 km stretch in the north between Dum Dum and Belgachia on Novermber 12, 1984. The commuter service was extended upto Maha Nayak Uttam Kumar on April 29, 1986 covering a further distance of 4.24 km making the service available over an overall distance of 9.79 km and covering 11 stations. 

However, the services on the north section were suspended w.e.f. Oct, 92 as this isolated small section was not attractive to commuters. After a gap of over eight years, the 1.62 km Belgachia-Shyambazar section, along with Dum Dum -Belgachia stretch, was opened on August 13,1994. Another 0.71 km stretch from Esplanade to Chandni Chowk was commissioned shortly thereafter, on October 2, 1994. The Shyambazar-Shovabazar-Girish Park (1.93 km) and Chandni Chowk-Central (0.60 km) sections were opened on February 19, 1995. Services on the entire stretch of Metro were introduced from September 27, 1995 by bridging the vital gap of 1.80 km in the middle. A dream thus came true. 

Phase II a length of 5.834 Kms from Maha Nayak Uttam Kumar to Kavi Nazrul station was completed in Aug’ 2009.  Further it was extended upto Kavi Subhash a length of 2.851 kms in Oct, 2010 for commercial operation. It was further extended, Dum Dum to Noapara, a length 2.091 Kms, on 10th July 2013. The last leg was opened on 23rd February 2021 for commercial operation from Noapara to Dakshineswar (4.139 Kms).

First Metro System of the Country

The initiative had to wait for 2 decades when in 1969 the Metropolitan Transport Project was initiated. The master plan prepared by them in 1971 envisaged a network of 97.50 km consisting of three North-South corridors of which three were selected for detailed planning. These three lines were Dumdum – Tollygunge, Bidhannager – Ramrajatala and Dakshineswar – Thakurpukur. Based on traffic studies, the Dumdum – Tollygunge corridor was first selected for implementation and work started on 29th December, 1972. On 24th October 1984, the first stretch, a length of about 3.4 km between Esplanade and Bhowanipur was completed, the first metro line in India. Over the years, others stretches on the corridor were gradually completed and some extensions were also made. This corridor was extended to New Garia in 2010. Today it carries about 5 lakh passengers a day.

East-West Corridor

Kolkata Metro Line 2 or East-West Corridor is a rapid transit line of the Kolkata Metro in the Indian state of West Bengal. It currently consists of an operational section between Salt Lake and Phoolbagan, and will eventually connect Teghoria with Howrah by going underneath the Hooghly River. It would consist of 17 stations from Teghoria (Haldiram) in the east to Howrah Maidan in the west, of which 11 would be elevated and 6 would be underground, with a total distance of 22 km. It is expected to derive a very high ridership since it will connect India’s two largest commuter railway and long-distance railway terminals (Howrah and Sealdah) along with two of its largest business districts (BBD Bagh and Salt Lake Sector V). Line 2 has India’s first underwater metro tunnel along with the deepest metro shaft. The first phase between Salt Lake Sector V and Salt Lake Stadium was inaugurated by Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on 13 February 2020 and commercial services started from 14 February 2020.

The master plan had already identified the corridor way back in 1971. But the success of the Delhi Metro contributed to the sanction of the East–West Metro corridor, which will connect Howrah Railway Station with the Satellite City of Salt Lake. In January 2004, the Pacific Consultant International Group conducted a feasibility study for the line. The report proposed the route and tubular structures be under the Hooghly River.

A new organisation called the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation Limited (KMRC) was formed, which executes the operations of this Line, commencing construction in 2009. Of KMRC’s eight directors, four each were from the state and central governments. The cost is being shared between the state government (30 per cent), the Union Urban Development Ministry (25 per cent), and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) (45 per cent). But as of 2011, after state government dis-invested from the project, most of the share of this project went to Indian Railways and with Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). 

The project is estimated at a cost of 50 billion. The present cost however, has escalated to 80 billion. But due to major setbacks, such as land acquisition, slum relocation, and route alignment problems, the project got delayed. The East-West Corridor was originally slated to be operational by 2012, but was later pushed back to 2015. The project will now be implemented in four phases. The first phase, from Salt Lake Sector V to Salt Lake Stadium, became operational on 13 February 2020. The second phase, to Phoolbagan opened on 4 October 2020, operational from 5 October 2020. The third phase to Sealdah is now slated to be operational by 2022 and the final phase which includes the journey through the tubular tunnels under the Ganges will be operational by year 2023.

Country’s First Underwater Metro System

Kolkata will soon boast of having the first under river metro tunnel in the country. Both the tunnels are ready for tracks to be laid. The wait is now reduced to few months only. The Kolkata metro is ready to take a plunge. For the first time ever in India a metro train will run under a river. The city of joy is heading for a trip under the Hooghly. 

Kolkata underwater metro is 33 mtrs under the normal level of earth. This also means that it is not only the deepest but also one of the biggest underwater metro system. One would have an experience of a lifetime of not just travelling via an underwater river tunnel in an A.C Rack of the metro but also ensure to land on one of the busiest platforms which can handle around forty thousand passengers in one hour on any given day. 

The underwater stretch lies 30 m under the river and is part of the east-west metro project. The metro train would huddle down through 520m tunnel at a speed of 80 kms per hour. This is the first time in the transportation sector in the entire country that a magnificent civil structure of this magnitude is built under a river. Despite cutting through a river the tunnel is absolutely water proof. With the help of a tunnel boring machine this has been made possible in record time. All ventilation fans, the efforts for maintaining humidity and temperature level at top and bottom is being consistently tried. 

Apart from this the Kolkata metro achieves many accolades from becoming India’s first underwater tunnel constructed below the sprawling howrah station heritage buildings with a first ever such project. Soon Kolkata would be the first Indian city to have the perfect harmony between a legendary ride on a tram and jet setting on futuristic trains. 

Few other major details

With the inauguration of the North-South Metro route from Noapara to Dakshineswar in 2021, the upcoming metro corridors are also expected to improve connectivity, particularly in the highly congested areas of the city.

Most of the construction for Line 1 is based on the Cut and Cover construction method, a traditional tunnelling method. Further, the East-West Metro corridor project will have an underwater tunnel and the section will be equipped with all the necessary facilities and safety measures. There will be tunnels for the evacuation of passengers in case of any emergency. As per an official, 80% of the construction work is complete. The Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (KMRCL), a government enterprise established in 2008, is undertaking the construction of the East-West corridor project of the Kolkata Metro. In July 2019, it handed over the operations of the Metro Line 2 to Metro Railway, Kolkata, which is the owner and operator of the Kolkata Metro, along with KMRCL. The Metro Railway, Kolkata, will also operate other metro lines after the completion of the construction work.

Metro Route

In March 2022, the Kolkata Metro Railway officially assigned colour codes to the different metro corridors and the new extended metro lines under various phases of implementation.

Kolkata Metro Line 1 (Blue Line)

Kolkata Metro Line 1 stationsLayout
DakshineshwarElevated
BaranagarElevated
NoaparaElevated
Dum DumElevated
BelgachhiaUnderground
ShyambazaarUnderfround
Shobhabazar SutanutiUnderground
Girish ParkUnderground
Mahatma Gandhi RoadUnderground
CentralUnderground
Chandni ChowkUnderground
EsplanadeUnderground
Park StreetUnderground
MaidanUnderground
Rabindra SadanUnderground
Netaji BhavanUnderground
Jatin Das ParkUnderground
KalighatUnderground
Rabindra SarobarUnderground
Mahanayak Uttam KumarAt-Grade
NetajiElevated
Masterda Surya SenElevated
GitanjaliElevated
Kavi NazrulElevated
Shahid KhudiramElevated
Kavi SubhashAt-Grade

The Line 1 of Kolkata Metro is the North-South Metro line. It is now referred to as the Blue Line. The route comprises 26 stations with 15 underground stations, two stations on the surface and 9 elevated stations. It covers about 32 kilometres of distance from Kavi Subhas to Dakshineswar.

The oldest metro line that was started in the city on October 24, 1984, was a small section of 3.4 kilometres, connecting Esplanade to Bhowanipore (now Netaji Bhavan). More sections were later opened, such as Tollygunge metro station to New Garia station along an elevated route. In 2013, the line was extended in the north with a new section connecting Dum Dum station to Noapara. In February 2021, a four-km section from Noapara to Dakshineswar became operational.

Kolkata Metro Line 2 (Green Line)

Kokata Metro Line 2 StationsLayout
Teghoria/HaldiramElevated
RaghunathpurElevated
BaguiatiElevated
Dum dum ParkElevated
KestopurElevated
Badhan Bank salt Lake Sector VElevated
KarunamoyeeElevated
Central parkElevated
LICI City CenterElevated
Bengal ChemicalElevated
IFA Salt Lake StadiumElevated
PhoolBaganUnderground
SealdahUnderground
EsplanadeUnderground
New MahakaranUnderground
HowarahUnderground
Howrah MaidanUnderground

The Kolkata Metro Line 2 route includes a total of 17 stations with 11 elevated stations and six underground stations spanning a distance of 22 kms. On February 13, 2020, the first phase of the East West Metro corridor from Salt Lake Sector V to Salt Lake Stadium was inaugurated. The Phoolbagan Metro station was the first underground metro station in the East West Metro route to be opened.

Underwater tunnel

The 16.6-kilometre-long East-West Metro corridor includes 5.8 kms of the elevated route and 10.8 kms of an underground section. Of this 16.6-km stretch, 520 metres will be under the riverbed of the river Hooghly. The twin cities of Kolkata and Howrah will be connected by an underwater tunnel that will be developed 33 metres below the riverbed of the river Hooghly. The Green Line will finally connect Howrah with Teghoria.

Kolkata Metro Line 3 (Purple Line)

The Line 3 of the Kolkata Metro is under construction. The route will start from Joka Metro station in the south and connect Esplanade in the north, covering a distance of around 15 kms. The project will be developed by Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) owned by the Indian Railways.

Kolkata Metro Line 4 (Yellow Line)

The Line 4 or the Yellow Line will connect Noapara and Barasat in North 24 Parganas. This Kolkata Metro route, which is under construction, will be around 16.8 kms.

Kolkata Metro Line 5 (Pink Line)

A 12.5-km metro stretch will be developed, connecting Baranagar to Barrackpore as part of the Kolkata Metro’s Pink Line route.

Kolkata Metro Line 6 (Orange Line)

This 29.8-km route of Kolkata Metro will link New Garia with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport via the two satellite towns of Salt Lake and New Town. Once opened, metro Line 6 will provide easy access to the Kolkata Airport, especially for those living in the southern and the eastern parts of the city.

Timeline & Major Events

October 1984The oldest metro line connecting Esplanade to Netaji Bhavan in Bhowanipore was started in Kolkata.
September 1995The 16.45-km stretch from Dum Dum to Tollygunge Metro station became operational.
February 2009The foundation stone for the underwater metro tunnel was laid.
March 2009Construction work on the underwater metro tunnel was started.
October 2010The final, 1.58-km stretch, from Kavi Nazrul to Kavi Subhash started functioning.
December 2010Metro Railway was granted the status of a Zonal railway.
July 2013A new section from Dum Dum to Noapara became operational.
July 2019KMRC handed over the Line 2 Metro operations to Kolkata Metro Railway.
February 2020Phase 1 of the East-West corridor from Salt Lake Sector V to Howrah Maidan became operational.
October 2020The East-West Metro corridor was extended from Salt Lake Stadium metro station to Phoolbagan metro station.
February 2021A section of around 4 kms from Noapara to Dakshineswar became operational.

Kolkata Metro latest updates

Kolkata Metro network plans to cover 100 kilometres by 2026. The Kolkata Metro network is likely to cover a length of about 100 kilometres in the next four years. This will include Phase 1 of Joka to Esplanade and New Garia to the Kolkata airport sections. Further, the Sealdah section will become operational in April 2022.

The first phase of the Kolkata East-West Metro corridor is connecting the Sector V of Salt Lake, the IT hub of the city, with the Salt Lake Stadium in the area, covering a 5.3km long stretch. The commercial services connecting six over ground stations – Sector V, Karunamoyee, Central Park, City Centre, Bengal Chemical and Salt Lake Stadium stations, have begun. For almost four decades, the sole corridor of Kolkata metro traversed through 24 stations, of which 15 are underground, covering a meagre distance of 27.3km from Noapara to Kavi Subhas.

The East-West corridor of the Kolkata Metro is India’s first-ever transportation project where metro trains will ply under river — Hooghly. 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.

Kolkata metro has five other ongoing railway projects, which have been allotted a budgetary grant of Rs 1,542 crore for fiscal 2020-21. The New Garia-NSCBI Airport link (Line-6), slated to be completed by June 2021, (new deadline July, 2022) 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. 

Conclusion 

Kolkata formerly known as Calcutta is a city of many hues, recognized by many as the Cultural Capital of India, known to others as the City of Palaces and to yet others as the City of Joy; it is difficult to capture its diversity as well as uniqueness within the confines of a single phrase.

Located on the eastern bank of the river Hooghly, Calcutta was established by the British in an area where the villages Kalikata, Sutanuti and Govindapur existed. These villages were part of an estate which belonged to the Mughal emperor himself and whose jagirdari was held by the Sabarna Roy Choudhury family. The rights were transferred to the East India Company in 1698 and it became the capital of British Indian in 1772. The city grew under the British and saw the emergence of a new educated urbane Babu class in the 19th century. Calcutta becomes the pioneering center of socio-cultural revolution often referred to as the Bengal Renaissance. Calcutta also became the epicenter of the Indian independence movement, especially the revolutionary stream. In 1905 Bengal was partitioned on communal grounds which resulted in widespread public agitation and the boycott of British goods (Swadeshi movement).

The British moved the capital to New Delhi in 1911 in view of these developments and also the fact that Calcutta was located in the eastern fringes of India. Through Calcutta lost a part of its political significance due to this decision, it continued to remain a determinant in the political developments in the country in the run up to independence in 1947 and a torch-bearer of the early industrial progress. It continued to play a very influential role in the cultural & literacy landscape of the country. In the fields of education, film, theatre & science, Calcutta has continued to play a stellar role. In 2001, the name of the city was changed to Kolkata to go with the Bengali pronunciation of the name.

Today it is a thriving metropolis, home to 4.5 million residents in an area of 185 sq km under the jurisdiction of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. The Kolkata Metropolitan Area spread over 1750 sq km comprising 157 postal areas in 2006 has a population of approximately 14.2 million making it the 13th most populous urban city in the world and the 18th largest urban agglomeration in the world. The urban agglomeration comprises 72 cities & 527 towns & villages. The suburban areas of Kolkata metropolitan district incorporate parts of the districts of North 24- Parganas, South 24- Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly & Nadia.

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