Mamata Banerjee’s masterplan to integrate the city’s criss-crossing rail corridors with the Metro has become a victim of tunnel vision.
Experts say integrating the proposed Joka-BBD Bag line and the East-West Metro with the city’s transport lifeline would entail boring through the walls of the existing tunnels, which might trigger a collapse.
“No provision was made for integration of multiple rail routes when the Metro tunnels were constructed many years ago. As of now, there seems to be no way out other than to break down the walls at some places, which could compromise safety,” said a senior Metro Railway official.
Modern fast-transit rail systems, including Delhi Metro, have passenger interface points that enable commuters to switch smoothly from one route to another.
So how is the Calcutta commuter going to access multiple routes without any interface?
“There will be passenger interface points at some places but not as many — and as convenient — as originally envisaged. Given the technical constraints, it won’t be possible to provide proper passenger interface at some of the stations in the heart of the city,” the official explained.
The original plan envisaged an interface at Park Street station, among the busiest in the city.
Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd, which is implementing the 16.72km Joka-BBD Bag project, has already made changes to the plan based on a fresh survey of the route. The route will now go underground from Kidderpore till BBD Bag with a separate terminal at Park Street, adjacent to the Metro station.
“The system won’t allow climbing up or down one level to switch routes, which we wish could have been provided to commuters. Those wanting to change trains will have to take the trouble of stepping out of one station and entering another,” said a Rail Vikas official.
The proposed interface at Esplanade has also undergone similar modifications.
The plan to link the 33km Airport-New Garia connection with the East-West Metro at Salt Lake Sector V also looks uncertain.
“The original layout doesn’t envision any such interface, hence the difficulty. But we are trying to stretch the Sector V station of the Airport-New Garia connection as close to the East-West station as possible,” an official said.
The good news is that passenger interface would be possible at some stations along the East-West and existing Metro routes, including at Central. The Biman Bandar station is set to be the hub of passenger interchange with trains from Barasat, Noapara and New Garia terminating there.
“Several platforms will be built at Biman Bandar station,” a Metro Railway official said.
The Joka-BBD Bag route will have an interface at Majherhat station linking it to the suburban and circular rail networks. The passenger terminal will be connected to the old Metro route. Interfaces with suburban train routes are also being planned at Baranagar, Dakshineswar, Barrackpore and New Garia.
But with direct route-to-route integration between the Joka-BBD Bag project and Metro Rail ruled out, the technical specifications of the rakes have changed as well.
“Metro rakes get power supply from the third rail. But the Joka-BBD Bag section would need rakes with overhead power connectivity. So you will see rakes with a different design than the ones that Metro Railway runs,” revealed the Rail Vikas official.