The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Transit twins eye yen power

The plan: two power-driven modern facilities. The estimate: Rs 600 crore. The target: Japanese funds. The approval: awaited.

In anticipation of the emergence of a Japanese hub in Haldia, city planners are yearning for the yen to implement two major transport projects. In three presentations over the past two months — to Honda, Mitsubishi and a few other prominent Japanese corporates — the Bengal government has unveiled ambitious plans for a light rail transit (LRT) system on a 16-km stretch from Esplanade to Joka, at an estimated cost of Rs 450 crore. The annual maintenance cost will be Rs 100 crore.

“We are now waiting for the Japanese to respond to the funding proposal. The projects, once commissioned, will alter the profile of a large section of the city. We are very keen to implement them,” said Prashant, joint secretary (transport).

The LRT and modern trams and trolley buses (see box) are geared towards making Calcutta “more attractive to tourists and business travellers”, besides providing pollution-free vehicular options.

The Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) is already funding a string of flyover projects in the city. Officials said Japanese investors are also expected to fund construction of roads in South 24-Parganas and a bridge between Raichak and Kukrahati.

The December presentations were followed up by a meeting last month, at which it was decided that the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) would take up the two projects with prospective Japanese investors, said Atri Bhattacharya, executive director of the Corporation.

Chief traffic and transportation engineer B.K. Sadhu said the Esplanade-Joka route had been chosen for the LRT in view of the anticipated increase in activities along Diamond Harbour Road, Kulpi, Kakdwip and Raichak, in South 24-Parganas. The LRT is in use in Holland, Germany, France and other European countries, they added.

“A port is coming up at Kulpi, a special economic zone is lined up for Kakdwip and Japanese investors are funding a bridge on the Hooghly from Raichak to Kukrahati, which will bring the industrial hub of Haldia nearer to Calcutta. The LRT project will serve the future growth of passenger traffic in that area,” explained Sadhu.

The anticipated Japanese hub at Haldia is likely to be accessible through a long land route from Esplanade to Raichak, via Taratala and Thakurpukur.

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