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Third terminal off track in funds spat

Eastern Railway’s much-hyped third terminal project at Chitpur has jumped the tracks, following a tug-of-war between the state government and the railway authorities over its funding.

Contrary to the railway’s expectations, the government has expressed its inability to bear the expenses for building the terminal’s passenger dispersal infrastructure. The CMDA, which was entrusted with the task, has drawn up a project report of Rs 200 crore. Eastern Railway's total project cost is about Rs 106 crore.

“CMDA is ready to build the necessary infrastructure, like roads and flyovers, but where do we get the funds'” asked urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya. “Let the railway fork out the funds, we shall implement the scheme. After all, it is a railway project. We can, at best, take the responsibility for developing the area around the proposed terminal and provide civic amenities,” he added.

Bhattacharya is expected to meet railway minister Nitish Kumar shortly to demand funds for infrastructure development.

Eastern Railway’s chief operations manager S.R. Thakur made it clear that it was the government’s responsibility to construct roads and develop the necessary infrastructure. “Our job is to undertake work related to rail movement. We have an outlay of Rs 104 crore for the railway project, including construction of platforms, tracks and station buildings. The state government should bear the cost of infrastructure development,”he said.

“We have prepared a short-term and a long-term project for passenger dispersal,” explained Tushar Mitra, director of planning, CMDA. The short-term scheme relates to widening Canal Bank Road, along the Circular Canal, Canal South Road and internal roads for free entry and exit of vehicles. There is also the construction of bus termini, a car-park, an auto-rickshaw stand and a bridge on the Circular Canal. All this work has to be completed before the railway decides to open the new terminal station next year.” Mitra, however, pointed out: “This infrastructure will not be enough to cope with the rush when the new station becomes fully functional.”

This has prompted the agency to prepare a long-term project, which involves the construction of a flyover connecting Belgachhia with Ultadanga, elevated roads along the Circular Canal, a pedestrian overbridge and some arterial roads. “All this work needs both time and money,” Mitra added.

He said at least 20 trains, carrying about 30,000 passengers, will regularly terminate at Chitpur. “We have to make arrangements for the dispersal of about 40,000 people, 1,500 private cars and taxis, 100 buses, 280 autos and 250 two-wheelers. Construction of new roads and other infrastructure is a must,” Mitra added.

Officials from Eastern Railway and several departments of the state government will meet on August 25 to give final touches to the project. Chief secretary S.N. Roy is likely to hold a meeting with the officials early next month to resolve the controversy over the project’s funding.

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