East-West eyes easy route to airport

The Bengal government has proposed an airport extension for the East-West Metro via Salt Lake's Central Park, seeking to bypass potential land hurdles that could derail this grand infrastructure dream like many others before it.

By Sanjay Mandal
  • Published 18.02.16

The Bengal government has proposed an airport extension for the East-West Metro via Salt Lake's Central Park, seeking to bypass potential land hurdles that could derail this grand infrastructure dream like many others before it.

If the railways agrees to the proposal to extend the scope of the project, there will be a third terminal station on VIP Road after Sector V and Howrah Maidan. The plan is to merge the proposed 5.36km extension from Central Park with the New Garia-Airport link at Haldiram's on VIP Road.

The railways, of course, might be bogged down by the thought that this is a city where half-a-dozen ongoing Metro projects have had a start-stop-start run because of land logjams. State government officials insist it will be different this time.

In a first for any infrastructure project in Calcutta, the detailed project report (DPR) for the proposed East-West Metro extension takes into account every possible bottleneck while charting out a route through unencumbered land.

A 2009 feasibility study by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation on the same proposal has been ignored.

Sources said the state government got consulting agency Rites, which operates under the railway ministry, to do a detailed project report in a bid to skirt a possible landlock.

The report, which has since been approved by the government, proposes to change the alignment from the middle of VIP Road to the left. Central Park station would be the changeover terminal.

"We have received the detailed project report and are examining it," a Railway Board official told Metro.

According to the Rites survey, there are two options between Kestopur and Joramandir along VIP Road - tracks to the left or right of the newly built flyover.

"Just after the Kestopur canal, there is densely populated private built-up area for a length of about 160 metres with a number of private G+0 to G+4 buildings. Planning of the Metro alignment along the right flank of the flyover requires acquisition of land (3600sq m) and private and residential-cum-commercial properties and some other small residential buildings and sheds," the report states.

Eight private buildings have been marked as potential problem points on this alignment. The other - and better - option is along the left alignment of the flyover because there is only one private building on that alignment.

"There is sufficient partially built-up government land available between Baguiati and Joramandir, which will ease the planning of the Metro alignment," the report states. "Comparatively, option 1 (left alignment) is most suitable and hence recommended," says the study.

The Rites report also suggests three alternatives for the proposed Baisakhi station in Salt Lake and recommends the one where private land needn't be acquired.

At the Joramandir crossing of VIP Road, there is a five-storey private building that could be a hurdle, the survey found out.

"At this location, the Metro alignment has been planned between the private building and the flyover to avoid the said structure," the DPR says.

Rites has proposed that the terminal station for the extended portion should be at the Haldiram's crossing on VIP Road. A passenger interface with the New Garia-Airport corridor has been recommended as well.

Since two Metro routes - one from New Garia and the other from Noapara - would reach the airport, there is no need for the East-West Metro extension to travel beyond the Haldiram's crossing, the project report states.

Before the study commenced, the state government had specifically asked Rites to explore the possibility of an alignment that would spare it the hassle of acquiring privately owned land.

"That was our main concern when this study was undertaken. For other projects, the DPRs would have pointed out in detail the need for land acquisition," a state government official said.

Since detailed project reports had been prepared for the other Metro routes after the sanctioning stage, problems in removing encroachment and acquiring land weren't even considered until these cropped up.

The five Metro corridors currently battling land-related problems had been announced by Mamata Banerjee during her last stint as railway minister.

A railway ministry official said the DPRs for the New Garia-Airport, Joka-BBD Bag, Noapara-Airport-Barasat, Noapara-Dakshineswar and Baranagar-Barrackpore Metro were prepared months after the projects had been sanctioned in February 2010.

The result? All these projects have been delayed by more than four years.

The DPR for the East-West Metro had mentioned encroachments at Bowbazar but didn't say that 90-odd families would need to be relocated. The second phase of the project has been stuck since 2009.

Several private construction companies have sought compensation and cost escalation for delays. A few have walked out, including L&T from the Noapara-Airport-Barasat project.