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East-West Metro project

Truncated service between Howrah Maidan and Esplanade promised by end of 2023

Sector V-bound passengers will have option of travelling from Esplanade to Sealdah by surface transport arranged by Metro & board a train

Debraj Mitra | Published 08.02.23, 06:45 AM
Work in progress at the East-West Metro Railway tunnel

Work in progress at the East-West Metro Railway tunnel

File picture

A truncated service between Howrah Maidan and Esplanade on the East-West Metro corridor is on the cards by the end of this year, a senior official said on Tuesday.

The East-West corridor, which will span 16.5km connecting Howrah Maidan with Sector V once fully ready, is now operational between Sealdah and Sector V.


“A 800-m stretch in Bowbazar is an engineering challenge. If we overcome this 800m, then Howrah Maidan will be connected to Sealdah by this year-end. But we are not taking any chances. It has to be done in a very cautious manner. But the stretch from Howrah Maidan to Esplanade will definitely get commissioned by December-end,” Arun Arora, general manager of Eastern Railway and Metro Railway, said at a news conference on Tuesday.  

“If we are not able to deal with the engineering challenge, then that 2.5km distance (between Esplanade and Sealdah) will have to be bridged by some other means. In case we are not able to overcome the challenge, we will start a truncated service.”

If such a  truncated service starts, Metro passengers from Howrah Maidan travelling to a destination beyond Sealdah will have the option of travelling from Esplanade to Sealdah by surface transport arranged by Metro and board a train towards Sector V from Sealdah.

“There could be a shuttle service or electric vehicles between the two stations (Esplanade and Sealdah). We will deliberate on them. But this is only an alternative possibility. I am confident that we will overcome the Bowbazar challenge and connect Howrah Maidan with Sealdah within the target (by the end of 2023),” Arora told The telegraph later.

The stretch between Esplanade and Howrah Maidan, including a portion under the Hooghly, is ready, according to Metro officials. But the 2.5-km stretch between Esplanade and Sealdah — especially in Bowbazar — has proved to be a gigantic challenge.

The brittle nature of the soil in Bowbazar — which has witnessed three subsidence in four years — has emerged as the biggest thorn for engineers.

The construction of a concrete structure to fill a yawning gap, which was created to construct a shaft to retrieve a tunnel-boring machine, is one of key challenges.

The shaft was 38m in length, and 29m had been filled when an accident occurred on May 11, 2022, leading to leakage of underground water, which in turn caused subsidence and cracks in several buildings.

The work to bridge the 9m gap, on hold for a long time, has just begun, said Metro official.

On October 14, around a dozen houses developed cracks in Bowbazar, following water seepage during the construction of a passage to connect two tunnels. Now, engineers are mulling replacing the remaining passages with an evacuation shaft.

Eight passages linking the two tunnels were part of the underground design on the stretch between Sealdah and Esplanade. Three of them were complete and the construction of the fourth led to the accident.

An official of the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC), the implementing agency of the 16.5km East-West corridor, said: “Let some progress be made on the critical activities in Bowbazar. If we make some inroad, then we can have some planning for the way forward.”

Two tunnels have been built for trains to move in either direction.  While the Sector V-bound tunnel is fully ready, work is pending in the other tunnel in Bowbazar.

A Metro source said KMRC and ITD-ITD Cementation, the contractor building the two tunnels on the Esplanade-Sealdah stretch, were discussing the possibility of sending a couple of empty rakes from the depot in Salt Lake’s Central Park to Howrah Maidan via the Sector V-bound tunnel.

“The empty rakes will go to Howrah Maidan. They will be used to ferry commuters between Howrah Maidan and Esplanade,” he said. 

CRS nod

The New Garia-Ruby section, part of the New Garia-airport corridor, received approval for commercial run from the commissioner of railway safety on Tuesday, said Metro officials.

The CRS inspection was conducted on January 30. Commercial service on the section is expected by this month, Arora said at the news conference.

“I had a detailed discussion with the CRS. The approval is expected by tonight or tomorrow. The CRS will make some observations. Their compliance is going to take a week. As soon as the fare structure is ready and the CRS recommendations are complied with... by February 14, we should be able to ask the railway board for a date of inauguration,” he said.

Arora said Metro Railway was facing three constraints in the new and upcoming sections — availability of rakes, lack of a communication-based train control system and a staff crunch.

For now, the New Garia-Ruby stretch will see only one train completing one leg of the journey and coming back, like that on the Joka-Taratalastretch. Two trains will not be able to run on the tracks at the same time because of the absence of an advanced signalling system.

“Within a year or a year and a half, the communication-based-train-control system should be installed. It should then be almost like East-West. It takes time. Because the rolling stock also gets modified. The trackside also gets modified. That will enable multiple trains to run at the same time,” Arora said.

The prototype rake from Dalian in China,  which arrived in March 2019, is in the final stages of approval from the Research Designs and Standards Organisation.

“After that, six to seven more rakes, which are ready, will be shipped from there(China). In addition to that, we will be getting some rakes from the ICF (coach manufacturing unit near Chennai). By this year, the rolling stock constraints will be taken care of,” Arora said.

Last updated on 08.02.23, 06:48 AM

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