Union human resource development minister Kapil Sibal walks down a corridor at Writers’ with chief minister Mamata Banerjee, whom he has apparently convinced to follow a common all-India entrance test for engineering from 2014. Picture by Sanat Kr Sinha
The defence ministry has tentatively allowed Metro Railway to go underground on the Maidan stretch of the Joka-BBD Bag route so that the skyline of Calcutta’s greenest patch isn’t sullied by concrete.
“We recently received clearance from the ministry of defence to conduct a survey along this stretch,” Protyush Ghosh, deputy general manager of Metro Railway, announced on Thursday.
The plan is for the elevated Metro tracks to hit a tunnel route after crossing Kidderpore and continue till BBD Bag, a 7km stretch. The Joka-BBD Bag project, flagged off by President Pratibha Patil on September 22, 2009, spans 16.7 km.
Although work has been under way along Diamond Harbour Road for almost two years, the Maidan stretch was a stumbling block for the Rs 2,619-crore project with the defence ministry having doubts over the impact of construction on the environment and security of a heritage neighbourhood that includes Fort William, among other landmarks.
This stretch of the project has already been delayed by more than six months.
Railway officials said the feasibility survey would be conducted by Rites, the government-run engineering consultancy and project management organisation.
Tunnel-boring machines of the kind being used in the East-West Metro project will ensure that the Maidan’s greenery isn’t damaged, engineers said.
The technology is such that keyholes on the surface are the only sign of the tunnels being bored underneath.
The original blueprint had elevated tracks over the Maidan along Kidderpore Road and Red Road to reach BBD Bag. That plan had to be abandoned because of both security and environment-related reasons.
The alignment was then changed and the project planners decided that the tracks would go underground on the Mominpore-Kidderpore-Hastings-Park Street stretch. “But the army raised objections yet again on security grounds,” a Metro official said.
The proposed alternative is that after crossing Hastings, the route will have an “interface” at Park Street with the existing north-south Metro alignment of the Kavi Subhas-Dum Dum route. From Esplanade, the alignment will take a left turn to reach BBD Bag via Esplanade.