Howrah, Sealdah, Chitpur and then Shalimar.
Eastern Railway (ER) officials made it clear on Tuesday that Shalimar had not been shelved as a rail terminus; it had been merely overtaken by Chitpur. “We are also looking at Shalimar to take the load off Howrah and Sealdah and to address the problem of long-distance trains for the next three decades,” said ER chief operations manager Subhas Ranjan Thakur
Union railway minister Nitish Kumar had announced conversion of the Chitpur railway yard, now used for goods trains alone, into a full-fledged terminal, while presenting his Budget on February 26. But the celebrations over Chitpur had been muffled as Kumar made no mention of the long-pending plan to give Shalimar terminal status.
Unfolding details of the Chitpur terminus, scheduled to go on track in three years, Thakur said all seven platforms would be long enough to accommodate 24-coach trains. Only one platform in Sealdah (no. 9A) has that capacity. “Six, or at least five, of the proposed platforms will host long-distance trains, while the rest will be used for the Circular Railway,” added Thakur.
The railways will have to construct two approach roads for the new terminal at Chitpur. One will come down from VIP Road, the existing stretch skirting the canal near Ultadanga will be widened, and a flyover will come up near Belgachhia Road to descend close to the Chitpur yard.
Two of the sub-yards — Chitpur and Ultadanga — will be devoted to the new terminal, while the Cossipore sub-yard will take on the freight weight now shouldered by all three sub-yards.
This, too, shall experience a boost in the form of the ‘direct delivery system’ and the terminal will be long enough to accommodate an entire goods train (50-bogey-plus) for loading and emptying simultaneously.
“The new terminal will be able to take on at least 25 pairs of long-distance trains daily,” said Thakur. Though, initially, only new trains will be diverted to Chitpur, some existing ones will also be shifted there.
“We may start by shifting one of the two or more trains that run on the same route from Sealdah or Howrah,” added the chief operations manager. He, however, clarified that shifting of old trains from the old terminus would be stopped if there “was any opposition from passengers”.
ER officials, however, appeared confident that the pressure on Sealdah and Howrah would be eased at Chitpur, which would “really benefit Calcuttans”. A sum of Rs 80 lakh has been allotted for the first year, with the rest of the funds for the Rs 80-crore project to come in over the next two years. “We don’t see any major roadblock, as it will all be on railway land, with no eviction involved,” they added.