Tunnel boring equipment imported from Germany for the East-West project lies idle at a site near Avani Mall in Howrah. Picture by Amit Datta
A portion of Brabourne Road smaller than the carpet area of three spacious apartments can revive the Hooghly stretch of the East-West Metro project that has been stalled for two years.
Sources said the railway ministry would go into a meeting on Thursday hoping to convince the Bengal government to provide 400sq m on Brabourne Road to start work on the proposed 2km underwater tunnel connecting the city with Howrah.
The meeting, to be attended by officials of the state government, the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC) and construction company Afcons, follows Calcutta High Court’s prod to clear the way for the East-West Metro.
“We will request the state government to provide 400sq m at the site of the proposed Mahakaran station. The land will be used to create a shaft from which the boring machine can be brought out after it drills the tunnel under the river,” a railway official said.
Work on the second phase of the project — the stretch between Sealdah and Howrah Maidan — has been stalled for two years because of the land logjam. “We haven’t been able to fix a site to bring out the tunnel boring machine on the Calcutta side in the absence of a confirmation from the state government,” a source said.
Equipment worth Rs 80 crore imported from Germany to create the tunnel has been idle for two years.
The boring machines need to be taken underground through a shaft at Howrah Maidan, the site for which has already been identified. Once underground, the machines will start drilling a 500-metre stretch of tunnel under the Hooghly to reach the Calcutta side.
“The problem is, these machines can’t be left under the Hooghly once boring is complete. They need to be taken out at some point and that site hasn’t been made available yet,” a KMRC official said.
The blueprint of the original route alignment mentions that 4,000sq m of land will be required near Writers’ Buildings to build the Mahakaran station. Calcutta police have objected to it, citing potential traffic mayhem. “Traffic disruption will be minimal if the state government allots 400sq metres to build the retrieval shaft,” a KMRC official said.
Justice Dipankar Dutta has said he will monitor the project. “I want to monitor the project till its end. I want all parties to talk among themselves and solve the problem. If they fight against each other, what will happen to Calcutta?” the judge said on June 4 while hearing a petition by Transtonnelstroy Afcons Joint Venture.
Sources said it would take 15 to 18 months to complete boring the underwater tunnel. “We expect the alignment dispute to be resolved by then. If the existing route (running through Salt Lake-Phoolbagan-Sealdah-Bowbazar-Brabourne Road-Howrah) is approved, then the boring machine will be brought out at the site we have asked for. Even if there is a realignment, it can be taken further underground by just closing the shaft,” an official said.
The state government had first suggested a realignment of the route two years ago but the railway ministry shot down the proposal.
Land owners in Bowbazar have refused to vacate plots earmarked for the project, while a proposed technology tweak that promises minimal displacement has been deemed too risky in a city sitting on soft soil.
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 will be built. From there, the tracks could head towards Esplanade, with a station near the tram depot as the interface between the North-South and East-West routes.
From Esplanade, the proposed route would turn towards Laldighi to reach Mahakaran station and run along the original route on the way to Howrah through the Hooghly.
Railway officials raised objections to the proposal. Also, there is a stretch of army land at Esplanade that needs to be bored for tracks to be laid. The ministry of defence has yet to clear the proposal. At Subodh Mullick Square, underground utilities, including cables and water pipelines, haven’t been shifted.
A couple was arrested from their residence in Paturia, Khardah, on Wednesday by a police team from Imphal on the charge of duping students.
They took money from students to get them admitted in Manipur institutions. The team left for Imphal with Uchchhas and Ipsita Chattopadhyay in the evening.