|The 40-acre plot in Salt Lake that the state government is finally clearing for East-West Metro. (Above) Tracks being laid on the plot. Pictures by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
A stockyard the state continued to occupy even three years after handing it over to the East-West Metro is finally being cleared, the first visible outcome of a meeting called by the state government in December to speed up the mega infrastructure project.
The urban development and public health engineering departments, which had been using the yard adjoining Salt Lake’s Central Park to stock sundry items like pipes and manhole covers, have been asked to move out so that work on setting up a maintenance hub for the East-West trains picks up steam.
The government had handed over the 40-acre plot to the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC) — the implementing agency of the project — in 2010.
“As the major part of the site was occupied, we could barely complete 60 per cent of the work over the past three years,” said a KMRC official. “With the two state departments finally shifting their goods, work on laying tracks and other maintenance facilities has started.”
The December meeting of the “high-powered” committee — of which chief secretary Sanjay Mitra is the chairman and KMRC managing director Hemant Kumar Sharma the convener — decided to get the plot vacated at the earliest.
“We had asked the principal secretaries of the two departments to ensure that the site be cleared,” said a senior state government official.
Sources said shifting of iron and PVC pipes, manholes and other items started soon after.
“Most of the stocks of the urban development department have been cleared through auction. The rest will be removed soon,” said an official.
KMRC officials said the maintenance hub was essential for the Metro project connecting Salt Lake’s Sector V to Howrah Maidan — a part of the tracks running under the Hooghly.
“The maintenance hub is the nucleus of the project. Without it, a railway project can’t be commissioned,” said KMRC managing director Sharma, who had surveyed the site a few days back.
The hub will have a workshop, where major maintenance work, such as changing a train’s wheels, can be carried out. It will also have pits for washing and facility to park all 14 rakes at night. There will be an electrical termination unit, where engines will be repaired.
Sources said construction of the tracks, main store, power supply unit and several other important facilities could not be started as pipes, manhole covers and other items were piled up. There are several small buildings the two departments were using as offices and godowns. After the process of vacating the land started, a godown of the urban development department has been dismantled.
A ramp will come down from the main viaduct of the East-West Metro line and be connected to the maintenance hub. Several tracks will have to be laid to let the trains go from one shed to another.
“The move shows how things can roll if the government takes interest in an infrastructure project,” a railway official pointed out.
KMRC officials are hopeful of making the hub ready by March 2015. “We have to open the maintenance hub much before that,” said Sharma.
Work on the 14.67km rapid transit link had started in April 2009 and the original deadline was 2013-14. The revised deadline for the Sector V-Central stretch is August 2015 and for the rest, September 2016.
Phase I of the project—from Salt Lake’s Sector V to Central — would be completed by June 2016, officials said.
Another major hurdle —construction of a 365m stretch at Salt Lake’s Duttabad — has been removed after the government and KMRC conducted a survey to identify the families that need to be shifted to facilitate the project.
The 58 families, who are occupying the plot, will stay in temporary shelters built by KMRC before being rehabilitated elsewhere.
Two other problem points remain — Duttabad and Bowbazar, where the project is embroiled in litigation and red tape. Also, the alignment of the route between Central and Howrah Maidan stations has not been finalised because the state government is yet to hand over land at Bowbazar to KMRC.