Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC), the implementing agency of East-West Metro, is investigating whether the company constructing the 2.45-km stretch between Esplanade and Sealdah is responsible for last week’s accident at Bowbazar that led to cracks in several buildings.
ITD-ITD Cementation, a private company, is building the twin tunnels on the Esplanade-Sealdah stretch of the East-West corridor, which once fully functional will connect Sector V with Howrah Maidan.
On May 11, excavation of soil to grout a “blind spot” under the Howrah-bound tunnel led to water seepage, which in turn triggered cracks in at least nine buildings, according to KMRC. Kolkata Municipal Corporation put the number at 13. Over 150 people have been evacuated.
“We have engaged experts from IIT Roorkee to investigate the cause of the accident. If it is found that ITD-ITD Cementation was at fault, the company will be penalised. If it is found that natural causes were responsible for the accident, KMRC will bear the cost of building houses, repairs and delay in the project,” C.N. Jha, managing director of KMRC, told The Telegraph on Wednesday.
“For the earlier disaster in 2019, ITD-ITD Cementation was found to be at fault and they were asked to bear all additional costs. The company has moved to arbitration and the issue is yet to be resolved,” said Jha.
In September 2019, hundreds of people had to be evacuated after cracks appeared in houses in Bowbazar because a tunnel-boring machine operated by ITD-ITD Cementation had hit an aquifer.
KMRC officials said they were looking into the clauses in the contract with the company on the basis of which it can be penalised if it is found to be at fault.
An official said the project would be delayed by at least three to four months beyond the revised deadline of January 2023.
“We have no information regarding any such step (for the accident) or further delay in meeting the deadline. We have no idea about the January 2023 deadline,” said Rupak Sarkar of ITD-ITD Cementation.
KMRC officials said British engineer John Endicott, who is an expert in tunnels and who was here during the 2019 disaster, would come to Kolkata soon to inspect the affected stretch. He will be accompanied by other experts.