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Japanese jump-start for rail tracks under water

Calcutta’s dream of floating the country’s first underwater tracks — a Metro Rail route linking the east of the city to the west at Howrah, cutting through the Hooghly — inched closer to reality on Wednesday.

A team from the Japan Economic Trade Organisation (Jetro) — a wing of the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation — met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings on Wednesday to discuss two projects, one of which is the Metro Railway scheme. The proposed Metro line, running beneath the Hooghly, will connect Ramrajatala to Rajarhat.

Representatives from Pacific Consultant International (consultants for the project) were among the nine-member Japanese team, which had also discussed the projects with chief secretary S.N. Roy.

The underwater tracks, running along 17.09 km, start from New Town, cut through Salt Lake, Phoolbagan, Narkeldanga, Sealdah, Bowbazar, Dalhousie, Howrah station, Howrah Maidan, Kadamtala and Dasnagar, finally ending at Ramrajatala.

A feasibility study on the Metro Railway will start on Thursday, according to chief minister Bhattacharjee.

“The projects will boost trade and industry here,” he said on Wednesday, adding that the two schemes were the outcome of his visit to Japan in September 2001, when he met Japan’s minister of industries. “The Japanese government is showing great interest in both the projects,” the chief minister added.

The other project, a bridge linking Calcutta to Haldia and making connectivity between the two places possible within an hour and 15 minutes, “is almost complete”, except a few technicalities like the mandatory clearance from the environment department, said chief minister Bhattacharjee.

The feasibility study on the bridge between Raichak and Kukrahati across the Hooghly had been completed before schedule.

The state government has formed a committee, led by the chief executive officer of Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), to co-ordinate the projects with the Japanese team. The team is scheduled to visit Calcutta in December again.

The transport department, CMDA and Metro Railway had presented a report to the Japanese team when it visited the city in April this year.

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