Railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Wednesday said the Howrah Maidan to Esplanade stretch of East-West Metro, which runs under the Hooghly river, is expected to be opened for public soon after taking all precautions.
Later, a railway spokesperson said the stretch is expected to be opened for public by December this year.
“The stretch is expected to be opened soon, after completing all necessary safety tests and inspected by the Commissioner of Railway Safety... This under-river tunnel is a milestone,” Vaishnaw told reporters at Howrah Maidan Metro station before undertaking an inspection of the tunnel built 16 metres below the river.
From Howrah Maidan station, the minister undertook a trolley inspection through the tunnel and reached Howrah station, which is going to be the deepest Metro station in India, built 33 metres below the surface having four underground levels over 5 lakh sq ft area, a Metro Railway spokesperson said.
He completed his inspection at Esplanade station on the other side of the river and expressed satisfaction over the pace of work of the entire stretch.
The spokesperson said the minister expressed hope before the railway officials after the inspection that the Howrah Maidan-Esplanade stretch will be opened for public by December 2023.
Kolkata Metro created history on April 12 when a rake ran through a tunnel under a river, the Hooghly, for the first time in the country.
The minister said all Metro projects in the city have been allocated enough funds and the central government has been monitoring the progress of works minutely.
"I reiterate, we want to carry on the work with support from the state government for all projects on various fronts - law and order, land acquisition etc - in every way," he said when asked about the possible deadline for completion of projects like Airport-New Garia and the opening of Metro services in Ruby Crossing-New Garia stretch.
"Rs 11,900 crore has been allocated for executing different railway projects in the state including Metro Railways. Compare this with the minuscule allocation before 2014," he said.
The Metro spokesperson said that once commissioned, the Metro corridor will connect the twin cities of Howrah and Kolkata and carry 6.7 lakh passengers daily.
Asked about the aquifer burst at Bowbazar in central Kolkata in 2019, and two more water leakage incidents at the same site in 2022 which delayed the completion of the project, Vaishnaw said, “We are continuously holding talks with the residents of that area and chalking alternative safety measures.” “I have asked the GM to hold camps with the people there again,” he added.
Out of the 16.6km length of East-West Metro, the underground corridor constitutes 10.8km between Howrah Maidan and Phoolbagan stations.
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