A small plot near Writers’ that the railways needs but the state government won’t help acquire is the latest in a long line of land hurdles for the East-West Metro with Mamata Banerjee in the muddle.
If Mamata the rail minister had stonewalled the transfer of railway land to the East-West Metro project when it was the Left Front government’s baby, Mamata the chief minister is seen as being reluctant to help the Congress-run railways acquire land for the proposed Mahakaran station.
“Our officials have been trying to persuade the state government to hand over land for the station but it isn’t co-operating. If this hostile attitude continues, the railways won’t handle the East-West project,” junior rail minister Adhir Chowdhury told Metro.
The only period when the East-West project wasn’t fighting the land battle on its own was when Trinamul was in charge both at Writers’ and Rail Bhavan.
The Rs 4,875-crore project, covering a stretch of 14.67 km from Sector V in Salt Lake to Howrah Maidan, is stuck at three places: Duttabad, Bowbazar and BBD Bag.
The railways, to which the state government formally transferred its stake in the project last year, requires around a third of an acre near Writers’ to set up the proposed Mahakaran station.
“There has been little progress so far despite several meetings with the transport department,” a senior official of the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation said.
Work on the Howrah side apparently can’t resume unless the plot is finalised. “Tunnel-boring to lay tracks under the Hooghly can’t be started because we don’t have the final alignment of the Mahakaran station yet,” the official said. “Once the boring machine is put into the shaft, there is no going back. The entire stretch has to be drilled in one shot.”
The shaft’s outlet on the Calcutta side needs to be aligned with the Mahakaran station, otherwise the entire design would have to be altered.
When Mamata was the rail minister and the project was with the state government, the railways had delayed handing over land for the terminals at Howrah and Sealdah by over three years. The revised deadline for the first phase of the project is August 2015, which officials said would be difficult to meet.