Calcutta, Sept. 7: The first Indian city to build an underground railway, Calcutta may be on its way to also lay the first underwater tracks.
The Rs 4,000-crore second Metro railway route — from the east of the city to the west at Howrah — has received the green signal from the foreign financier, the Japan Economic Trade Organisation (Jetro).
A team from Jetro, a wing of the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation — owned by the government — is scheduled to arrive on September 10 to discuss the state’s largest foreign donor-funded project that will connect Rajarhat to Ramrajatala, running beneath the Hooghly.
The nine-member team, with representatives from Pacific Consultant International (consultants for the project), will be here for three weeks. The task they have on hand is to work out a strategy to coordinate with different agencies of the central and state governments, conduct a detailed survey of the locale and collect other data necessary to get the project off the ground.
The first of the meetings will be held at Writers’ Buildings the day the team lands, with the state being represented by the chief secretary and senior officials of the transport department, the public works department and the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority.
This meeting, say officials, is likely to decide on the core committee that will help the Japanese team complete its on-the-ground survey.
Urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said the Japanese team would be able to wrap up the survey in no time as a large part of the work, including soil testing, road alignment, mapping and plans for stations and car sheds, was complete.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has been knocking on the doors of different foreign agencies for a long time for funds for the project. On his tour of Japan last year, he placed the east-west Metro proposal before the officials there who expressed willingness to invest more in transport infrastructure after the successful completion of the Rs 1,600-crore flyover project.
The transport department, CMDA and Metro Railway prepared a project report — on track alignment, location of stations and the passenger dispersal system — that was shown to a Japanese team which visited the city this April.
Marubeni Corporation, the liaison agent of the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation, informed the government of the project’s acceptance late last month.
“We have been advocating the cause of the east-west Metro project because it is the only solution to decongest the city’s traffic,” transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said.
“As the existing Metro is bound to the north-south route, it leaves out people travelling between the east and the west. With this project, the disparity will end.”
Under the proposal, the 17.09-km route will start from New Town and terminate at Ramrajatala, touching Salt Lake, Phulbagan, Narkeldanga, Sealdah, Bowbazar, Dalhousie, Howrah Station, Howrah Maidan, Kadamtala, Dasnagar and Ramrajatala. There will be 17 stations on the route and the connecting point with the north-south Metro will be Central station.