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EW Metro deadline in court

A construction company has moved the high court, submitting that it has been set a deadline to start work on a East-West Metro stretch where it lacks basic requirements like land.

Justice Dipankar Dutta, who heard the petition by Transtonnelstroy Afcons Joint Venture on Wednesday, said he would monitor the progress of the project.

“I want to monitor the project till its end. So I want all parties to talk among themselves and solve the problem. If they fight against each other, what will happen to Calcutta?” wondered Justice Dutta, who is also monitoring the Parama Flyover project where work resumed recently after being stalled for 15 months.

Transtonnelstroy Afcons — a joint venture of Afcons, the infrastructure arm of Shapoorji Pallonji, and Russian company Transtonnelstroy — has been awarded the contract to build East-West tracks and stations between Howrah Maidan and Bowbazar.

Apart from Transtonnelstroy Afcons, the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (the implementing agency of the project) and the urban development ministry were represented in the court.

The judge ordered that “competent officials” of the three parties sit down and sort out the problem, and set June 20, when the matter will be heard again, as the deadline for wrapping up the talks.

The judge also asked the urban development ministry, a part owner of the project, to ensure that representatives of its transport division attend the next hearing.

Transtonnelstroy Afcons Joint Venture told the court that the corporation had issued a letter on May 2, asking the company to start work within 15 days, or else it will lose the Rs 4,676-crore contract.

Work on building the 14.67km link from Sector V to Howrah Maidan, passing under the Hooghly, had started in April 2009. The project is stuck at two points — Bowbazar and BBD Bag— because of encroachments the government seems loath to remove.

The alignment of the tracks between Central and Howrah Maidan has not been finalised as the state is yet to hand over land at Bowbazar to the corporation.

At Duttabad in Salt Lake, work has resumed recently after being stuck in a land knot for more than two years.

“We are getting no help from the corporation. Till now land has not been allotted and we don’t know the exact location of Mahakaran station and the alignment. The stretch under Hooghly (through which the tracks will pass) is yet to be identified,” Jayanta Mitra, who is representing the construction firm, submitted in the court.

He said equipment worth Rs 80 crore, brought to drill tunnels under the river, had been lying idle because of the authorities’ failure to fix the alignment.

“We can’t start work till we get land and the alignment is clear. We have written several letters to the corporation but there is no reply yet,” Mitra submitted.

The company’s plea for a compensation of Rs 257 crore from the corporation for being unable to start work is being heard by a tribunal.

Corporation officials said they had asked Transtonnelstroy Afcons to start building East-West stations at Howrah Maidan and Howrah station.

“We are yet to get land from the state government at Bowbazar and the alignment on the stretch is unclear. So, we had asked the company to construct platforms at Howrah Maidan and Howrah station, where land is available. But they are refusing to do so,” said a corporation official.

A company source, however, said: “We have not got the entire space we require at Howrah station. It is not commercially viable to work on a piecemeal basis.”

In the original plan approved by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which is providing Rs 2,253 crore of the project’s estimated cost of Rs 4,875 crore, the tracks were to run from Sealdah to Bowbazar, with Metro Railway’s Central station acting as the interface.

The state government has proposed that the tracks, instead of heading west from Sealdah as agreed earlier, turn north and run below Nirmal Chunder Street towards Raja Subodh Mullick Square, where a station would be built.

From there, it has suggested that the route head towards Esplanade, where a station near the tram depot would act as the interface between the North-South and East-West Metro routes. From Esplanade, the proposed route would turn towards Laldighi to reach Mahakaran before aligning with the original route on the way to Howrah.

“We’ll soon hire an agency to conduct a survey for the proposed alignment,” said a state official.