West Bengal to clear Laldighi hurdles of East West Metro Project in six months

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Kolkata: West Bengal government will shift the tram depot and various underground utilities from Laldighi within six months if the Center agrees to its proposal for a change in the route alignment of the stalled East-West Metro.

The assurance came on Wednesday at a coordination meeting ordered by Calcutta High Court to end the status quo that has delayed the project by more than two years.

The government also announced that the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC) was free to build a shaft at Laldighi to bring out the boring machine that would be used to drill a tunnel from Howrah Maidan to the central business district through the Hooghly.

The decision on whether to create a shaft at Laldighi or not couldn’t be taken immediately because the railway ministry wasn’t represented at the meeting. “The railway ministry’s representative couldn’t come because of a meeting in Delhi. We will send a mail tomorrow, seeking the ministry’s opinion on the proposal,” an official said.

The railways holds a 74 per cent stake in the East-West Metro and the Union urban development ministry owns the remaining 26 per cent.

The official said that once the stakeholders formally agreed to the proposed change in alignment, the state government would start shifting utilities from Laldighi. The Calcutta Municipal Corporation, BSNL, CESC and other agencies said they were ready to shift their underground utilities to make way for the proposed Mahakaran station.

Mahakaran station had originally been planned on Brabourne Road but the state government opposed the proposal on grounds of traffic disruptions and displacement of people.

At the last meeting, the KMRC had agreed in principle to alter the alignment of the project, as proposed by the state government to avoid reclaiming land and shifting utilities from the central business district.

Japan International Cooperation Agency, which is providing Rs 2,253 crore out of the budgeted Rs 4,875 crore for the project, had been initially opposed to any change in the scope of work because that would raise the project expenditure. The Japanese funding agency has since been forced to ease its stand to save the project.

Construction company Afcons has been asked to start creating the proposed tunnel under the Hooghly and build a shaft at Laldighi to bring out the boring machine on the Calcutta side.

The shaft will require 440sq m of land, for which a tram track and a few utilities need to be shifted. The Mahakaran station would require 5,500sq m of land, for which the tram depot would need to be relocated along with several underground utilities.

Another challenge is getting the Archaeological Survey of India’s permission to build the shaft at a site close to the Currency Building, which is a heritage structure.

A joint team of the KMRC, police and other departments of the state government did a survey of the proposed alignment on Wednesday morning.

According to the report, Rani Rashmoni Road would need to be closed to build the proposed Esplanade station. “This will inconvenience a lot of people. We have asked consulting agency Rites to find out whether a diversion is possible to avoid completely blocking this busy road,” transport secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay said.

The survey covered Raj Bhavan and Esplanade too.

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