The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Transit takes fancy flight

If the roads are not fit for travel, take the aerial route. That seems to be the direction the state government wants to head to facilitate shorter travel-time between Tollygunge and Tallah.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, addressing a meeting of the national executive council of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), unveiled grand plans for the city’s transport sector on Thursday. In the line of his fire — the buses and trams run by his own government.

“We want to get rid of the state-run buses and trams,” the chief minister said, after the assembled industrialists had torn into the city’s poor transport infrastructure. “We are already in dialogue with two foreign agencies — one from Japan and another from Switzerland,” he assured the turnout, sparking immediate talk of bidding goodbye to the city’s belching buses and trundling trams.

A few hours later, at Writers’ Buildings, the chief minister trod a middle path between high-flying dream and ground reality. “Both firms have made interesting presentations and we are moving towards a rapid mass-transit system as an alternative,” he said. “But how can we do away with the present system without the alternative being ready'”

The Japanese firm was the first to submit a presentation, Bhattacharjee disclosed. The Swiss firm, too, had submitted one, officials added, making it clear that a “radical view” was required to revamp Calcutta’s transport system.

Officials said the chief minister’s dreams were centred around the Magnetic Levitation Train, or Maglev, and the firms in the race were Inglov of Switzerland and Yachio Engineering Company Limited of Japan. Yachio, of course, has been been involved as consultants on the city’s six flyover-projects.

The Maglev system, say officials, involves using a “track” above the vehicle. The magnetic-powered line of steel, from which the train “hangs”, is to be part of a network connected by stilts, officials explained.

“The magnetic power is supplied by the network of rails above and there remains a gap between the train and the ground,” said G.G. Bhattacharya, adviser to the transport and infrastructure development corporation.

Chief traffic and transport engineer B.K. Sadhu confirmed that both companies — the Japanese and the Swiss — had submitted their representations.

“The chief minister has asked state transport department officials to continue detailed discussions with both firms on the feasibility of the project,” an official said, adding that the “financial implications” were under the government scanner.

Yachio has in place a similar system in Nagoa, in Japan, which is due for inauguration soon. Inglov has implemented a popular system from Shanghai airport to the city’s central business district.

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