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Light rail transit back on track

The proposed light rail transit (LRT) system for Calcutta has survived a string of setbacks and is back on track, thanks to the renewed interest of Japan Bank of International Cooperation.

'We have had fresh discussions with the bank and it has agreed in principle to provide funds for the project,' chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb said on Thursday.

The Rs 2,400-crore dream project of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was in danger of being derailed after the funding agency had second thoughts about pumping money into this new-age mass transport system. 'But now, there is no cloud over LRT. It will be in place in the city,' asserted the chief secretary.

Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) has been engaged to prepare a project report and another Japanese body, Japan Railway Transport Service (JRTS), is studying the technical feasibility.

'The project report is almost complete. A group of experts from JRTS will arrive in the city soon to examine the proposed route alignment. We will submit the project report to the Centre, which will forward it to the Japanese bank,' Deb added.

The government had been lobbying with Delhi for quite some time to get the bank to fund the East-West Metro and the LRT projects. The Delhi Metro Railway Corporation had prepared a detailed report for the East-West Metro project, which had to be finally shelved as the state government realised it would not be able to shell out its share of around Rs 600 crore.

For the LRT project, the government had got a draft feasibility report prepared by Consulting Engineering Services, a private firm, and submitted it to Delhi. But the Japanese bank had 'temporarily rejected the proposal', saying it would be considered later.

Officials at Writers' Buildings, however, clarified that there were reasons for the 'rejection': the report had failed to clarify a few points and the bank usually prefers a report prepared by a consultant from its own country.

'As desired by the bank, we have engaged JETRO and JRTS to prepare the project report and the technical feasibility report. Both agencies are experts in the field and work in tandem with the bank. We hope there won't be any problem this time,' said an official in the chief minister's secretariat.

According to a source in the secretariat, the chief minister had personally taken up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

'We are determined to introduce a mass rapid transit system in the city for the benefit of the people and we have given utmost priority to improving transport infrastructure in the city,' Deb said.

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