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BREAKING DAWN: CALCUTTA 2014

Calcutta has much to look forward to in 2014 after a middling year of some promises fulfilled and a few forgotten. Metro brings you up to speed.

Infrastructure

Calcutta’s much-awaited Bus Rapid Transit System is expected to be completed by June. The EM Bypass is being widened under the project with dedicated lanes for buses. There will be separate lanes for private cars and two-wheelers, cycling tracks and pavements for pedestrians.

Barriers dividing one lane from the other will ensure that one type of vehicle doesn’t enter the space reserved for another.

The basic idea is to make bus journeys faster and comfortable, prompting more people to opt for public transport.

The arrival of a bus will be notified through a digital display system in each of the 40 stations that are to be built along the length of the Bypass, from Ultadanga till Dhalai bridge.

If the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority manages to pull off the project by June — officials insist they are on schedule — the Bypass is set to look very different.

Another boost for public transport would be the completion of the Vivekananda Road flyover, a project running nearly 30 months behind schedule. The flyover, which takes off near Girish Park and terminates opposite the old mint on Strand Road, is meant to give commuters headed for Howrah from the east and north Calcutta a far quicker commute than they are accustomed to.

Vehicles taking the flyover will bypass the Posta crossing, a perpetually snarl-prone junction because of the warehouses there.

Officials said about 70 per cent of the flyover was ready and the CMDA was aiming to complete work by July.

For people living off the southern end of the Bypass, a water treatment plant at Dhapa is one infrastructure project to look forward to. The plant will be ready by June and the distribution network by December, sources said.

The Kamalgazi flyover on the southern fringe will be completed by Puja. The flyover takes off at a point between Dhalai bridge and the Kamalgazi crossing and terminates near Narendrapur.

Once it is opened to traffic, commuters won’t have to endure rush-hour snarls near Kamalgazi.

The Parama-Park Circus flyover is, however, not on the list of projects projected to be ready in 2014. The earliest it can be completed is September 2015, an official said.

There is hope for the crater-riddled Kalyani Expressway and Jessore Road, though. Officials said the width of the Kalyani Expressway would be doubled. Jessore Road is set to turn into a four-lane highway by June.

Malls & multiplexes

Quest Mall on Syed Amir Ali Avenue will throw open a lot more retail and dining doors by the end of 2014. Michael Kors will open first, followed by other big fashion brands such as Burberry, Gucci, Paul Smith, Canali and Furla.

Forum Rangoli Mall, a 3 lakh sq ft property in Howrah, will also open in the New Year.

Acropolis, the 3 lakh square feet mall, on the Kasba connector of the EM Bypass, is billed to make the stretch till the Ruby roundabout even more happening. Coming up over five levels, a multiplex and many munch options.

South City Mall on Prince Anwar Shah Road will complete six years and has plans to replace some of the existing brands and upgrade to new ones.

The mall’s focus will be on providing more retail and entertainment options for children. Tommy Hilfiger, US Polo Assn and Benetton are set to open kidswear stores at South City. Also on the anvil are stores of international men’s wear giant Gant and Croma, which specialises in electronics.

Avani Mall in Howrah will open several stores — from Just Watches to CEX — and plans to sign up at “at least 10 more brands” over the next few months. The mall also intends to convert its terrace space, with a view of the Vidyasagar Setu, into a lounge.

City Centre Salt Lake has received “letters of intent” from Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Manchester United, FCUK, Gant, Being Human and Apple and is looking forward to welcoming these brands into the mall in 2014.

INOX will open its ninth Calcutta property at Quest. Scheduled to open in the “first quarter of 2014”, this will be a six-screen multiplex and is slated to be INOX’s best property in the country.

Fun Cinemas will open its first multiplex in Calcutta at Lake Mall. PVR, which opened at Diamond City North on Jessore Road in September 2013, has found the market to be “beneficial” and will soon be expanding.

Hospitality

Accor Group will open its ninth Novotel in India, called Novotel Kolkata Hotel and Residences, in New Town. The 346-room hotel, including 48 service apartments, will be the city’s largest star hotel (till ITC’s Phase II opens, that is), flanking the IT belt and located on the Rajarhat Expressway. “We will open by March-April,” said Raj Kakarla, the general manager of the hotel.

At The Lalit Great Eastern, 195 rooms will open in the New Year, 100 of them in the New Block and 95 in HB2.

The Gateway Hotel, Calcutta, launched 80 of its 197-room inventory in 2013 and hopes to open the remaining rooms and a speciality restaurant in ’14, according to Manu Sharma, the general manager of the Taj property.

Taj Bengal, on the other hand, will celebrate 25 years in Calcutta in 2014.

The Park’s new hotel design project is nearing completion and construction is set to start in the second half of 2014. The hotel will have over 200 rooms and 100 branded residences with large banqueting and conferencing facilities and several F&B outlets. The project is expected to be completed by 2017.

Some of the premium hotels under construction in and around New Town are Starwood’s Westin and JW Marriot’s Courtyard. Construction of ITC’s second property, beside the Sonar, is underway.

Food & Beverages

The Lalit Great Eastern (Phase I) will be up and functioning by January-end. Apart from The Bakery that opened for Christmas in 2013, The Beer Bar will offer over 30 varieties of fresh and bottled beer from across the world. Also, keep your fingers crossed for the first microbrewery in Calcutta (the hotel has applied to the government for the licence). Coming soon will be the Tea Lounge brewing Indian “leaf tea” from different tea estates. A 24-hour cafe called Alfresco will serve cuisine intrinsic to Calcutta — Nawabi, Anglo-Indian, Calcutta Chinese and Bengali.

In the malls, Quest at 33 Syed Amir Ali Avenue will see a host of restaurants. The biggest of them will be the Michelin-starred, London-based Chinese restaurant Yauatcha. Followed by Serafina for an Italian experience, Bombay Brasserie for “Bombay cuisine”, The Irish House for Irish-style pub grub, Red Mango for frozen yogurts, Smoke House Deli and the mall’s own luxury cafe Q33 on the ground floor, which will serve stuff like Avocado Pate.

At the Forum mall, Speciality Restaurants will open Cafe Mezzuna in January, the second outlet in India after its successful run in Pune. “Our idea is to take it across the city to places like Acropolis. We are also exploring Sector V to open a Cafe Mezzuna or new-format restaurants,” said Anjan Chatterjee, chief of the Speciality Group.

The group will also introduce Global Grill with “grills from across the world”, again at Acropolis. Another Mainland China will come up on VIP Road.

A Japanese restaurant from K House, serving “authentic Japanese cuisine”, will open at Forum and Mani Square. Pizza Hut will open in Mani Square and Pizza Hut Delivery and KFC in Lake Mall.

After Dallas-headquartered Chili’s opened in December 2013, expect other American chains like Cinnabon (its signature item is the cinnamon roll) and Auntie Anne’s pretzels to open in Calcutta. “Preferably in a mall in the second half of 2014,” said franchisee Rishi Bajoria.

At the multiplexes, the menu will grow. “We have recently partnered with INOX. So, very soon our patrons will be able to enjoy popular Afraa Deli snacks while watching movies. The first one will be at South City, by early 2014, followed by one at Quest,” said Bikram Banerjee, director of hospitality operations, Ambuja Neotia Group.

Look forward to an exclusive chocolate lounge, Le Chocolatier from Oriental Cuisines, near Minto Park by mid-February. This will be their second outlet in India after Chennai. Naushijaan, the popular Awadhi restaurant in Kasba, will get a makeover by February and also add two branches in south Calcutta.

Sources said Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are very keen to open in Calcutta in the New Year. Fingers crossed.

Traffic

Calcutta police promise to crack the whip on illegal parking along the thoroughfares in 2014. The stretch of APC Road that connects Shyambazar and Ballygunge has been selected for the start of the crackdown.

Additional cameras will be installed along with the existing 400 CCTV cameras to capture images of the registration number plates of offenders. The CCTV cameras that are installed at some intersections can only capture an overhead image of moving vehicles.

A promise that the traffic cops had made last year but failed to implement again features on their to-do list for 2014. Swiping machines meant to enable traffic offenders to pay their fines online and on the spot will be introduced on city roads.

Hot wheels

After a prolonged will-it-won’t-it the Calcutta Porsche showroom should finally be up and operating from the first month of the New Year. After two missed deadlines in July and October, delays triggered by the depressed market and logistical bottlenecks, Calcutta’s date with the German sports car has been fixed on January 15.

Spread over 1,100sq ft, the almost ready snazzy dealership is already grabbing eyeballs with its signage. Located at 83/2/1 Topsia Road, it will showcase the newest 911 Carrera 4S, the Cayman, the Boxter S, the Panamera and the Cayenne. The base price of a Cayenne is Rs 80 lakh, the Panamera sells for Rs 90 lakh, Cayman comes for a crore and the iconic 911 for Rs 1.7 crore. But Porsche price tags are apparently no deterrent for the Calcutta car connoisseur, as Sandip Bajaj, the Porsche dealer here, has already sold 45 cars without a showroom!

On the delay in opening the showroom, Bajaj said: “Every single item of the dealership had to be shipped from Germany. But we are ready now. The showroom will be inaugurated in January for sure.”

Up his sleeve next is another luxury brand from the Volkswagen Group. Though Bajaj is tight-lipped, the automobile grapevine has it that a Bentley showroom will be the next set of luxury wheels to roll into the city. Bentley had showcased its Continental GT, Flying Spur and Mulsanne at a star hotel early last year.

In the mass market, the stretch of NH6 on the Howrah side is fast developing into a car corridor. Showrooms of Maruti, Hyundai, Chevrolet and Toyota are drawing customers from the districts of Howrah and Hooghly by the droves. More showrooms are set to follow in the New Year with manufacturers deciding to expand their footprint in search of untapped markets.

Airport and aviation

The Airports Authority of India plans to kickstart the process of handing over the airport’s management to a private operator in 2014, subject to the Union civil aviation ministry’s nod.

Calcutta airport will recruit a facility management consultant to oversee passenger amenities that have so far been handled by private firms under the supervision of government officials. A professional agency will be at hand to solve any problem pertaining to passenger services in the new integrated terminal.

The AAI has awarded the F&B contract for the new terminal to Travel Food Services, the organisation that caters to Mumbai airport and Delhi’s T3. So expect a mix of international brands along with local favourites. Their partner brands are Smoke House, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, KFC, Haagen-Dazs and proprietary brands are NoodleWok, Dilli Streat, Idli.com, Chaatwala and Starbucks.

Sadly, lack of industry is what fails to lure major international airlines to the city and 2014 is unlikely to see a change for the better.

Health care

Several private hospitals are expected to add beds to their existing facilities. Medica Superspecialty Hospital plans to start setting up a 350-bed unit and a 150-bed cancer treatment centre.

Tata Medical Center is coming up with a 250-bed second wing on a two-acre plot near its New Town facility. Construction will start in January.

Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals will add 250 superspeciality beds by the end of the current fiscal with the expansion of its cancer unit and the Institute of Gastro Sciences.

CMRI intends to add 100 beds in six months and create four centres of excellence. Ruby General Hospital will augment its facilities with another 160 beds in a G+8 structure.

In the state-run health care sector, Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute’s proposed 500-bed cancer hospital project will start in New Town in 2014. The Rs 653-crore project is likely to become operational in two years and will be one of the biggest state-run superspeciality cancer treatment facilities in the country.

Work on a 150-seat medical college in Bhangar on the

southern fringes is also likely to start during the year. More emergency observation wards are set to come into medical colleges.

Metro Railway

Four more air-conditioned rakes will join the Metro fleet this year.

More trains will run in five-minute frequency by the middle of 2014. Officials said motormen were being recruited to extend the five-minute frequency operations to non-peak hours.

Work on several Metro projects in the city, including the East-West Metro, is expected to gain momentum with the state government gradually removing the roadblocks.

Education

Presidency University will get its first full-term vice-chancellor in 2014 along with the foundation brick of its second campus on a 10-acre plot in Rajarhat.

Work on the second campus of St. Xavier’s College will start on 16.64-acre plot in Rajarhat’s Action Area III. The blueprint for the first phase, which will take three years to complete, includes the administrative building, a 12-storey academic block, residences of the vice-chancellor and faculty, and hostels for the students.

The West Bengal College Service Commission is set to recruit 2,000 college teachers of the rank of assistant professor for the first time in five years. The recruitment drive will bring relief to many aspiring teachers who have been waiting for a job after cracking the NET and the SET or after being awarded PhD degrees.

The college service commission will also conduct a centralised test for the first time to recruit non-teaching staff in state-aided colleges.

The state JEE board plans to overhaul its syllabus so that it is on a par with that of the IIT entrance exam.

Jadavpur University is planning a research centre in collaboration with the Defence Research and Development Organisation opposite the main campus and another in association with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

ICSE and ISC answer scripts will be barcoded to ensure confidentiality during evaluation, the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations has decided.

A new school under the Satikanta Guha Foundation — Garden High International School — will be inaugurated in April. Delhi Public School, Joka, affiliated to the CBSE, will start functioning in April.

Environment

No significant step, either in policy or execution, is expected on the green front in 2014 with stop-gap environment minister Upen Biswas scheduled to hold office for the first few months in the absence of ailing regular minister Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar.

It will be left to the judiciary to force some action in the matter of polluting vehicles.

What is that one new thing in Calcutta 2014 you are looking forward to the most? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com

 

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