Monday, 30th October 2017

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Flaws in CM flyover target

Mamata Banerjee has committed herself to opening by February a flyover running 62 months behind schedule and barely 76 per cent complete.

By Subhajoy Roy
  • Published 18.11.15
An unfinished ramp of the Vivekananda Road flyover. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Mamata Banerjee has committed herself to opening by February a flyover running 62 months behind schedule and barely 76 per cent complete.

The chief minister's announcement, made during the inauguration of a Jagaddhatri Puja in Posta on Monday, drew cheers from the crowd but left engineers associated with the Vivekananda Road flyover flummoxed. An official of the construction company building the flyover spoke of four immediate hurdles:

♦ Site where the Howrah-bound ramp will land still to be decided

♦ Calcutta Port Trust yet to grant permission to use a patch of land for the Girish Park-bound ramp

♦ Five to six hours of construction activity, as has been the daily schedule since the start, inadequate for a project of this scale

♦ Location of two piers at the Posta crossing not fixed

In the project blueprint, the flyover takes off from near the Girish Park-Central Avenue crossing and runs above Vivekananda Road and Kali Krishna Tagore Street before branching out in two directions from the Posta crossing. While one arm runs above Strand Road and approaches Howrah bridge from Posta, the other carries traffic towards Nimtala.

The 2.2km flyover has missed eight deadlines since construction started in 2009. The ninth deadline ends this November. Based on the original timeline, the flyover was to be ready for traffic by August 2010.

According to a senior engineer with IVRCL Ltd, the 150-metre stretch between the Posta crossing and Howrah bridge has proved the biggest challenge for the project. "From Girish Park to Posta, work has progressed at a decent pace. Beyond that, we have yet to get 23 per cent right of way (land or space required for construction)," he said.

Metro highlights the problem points that could foil chief minister Mamata's plans for a February opening.

Landing strip

The lack of clarity on where the Howrah bridge-bound ramp of the flyover will land on Strand Road has triggered a blame game.

"The alignment of at least 100 metres of the flyover depends on where the ramp ends. A flyover cannot suddenly land on a road. The Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) has to inform us where exactly it will allow the landing," said an official of IVRCL.

The CMDA blamed the police and the port authorities for the delay in taking a decision. "The plan we submitted can be implemented only if the police and the Calcutta Port Trust agree to it. We are awaiting their approval," an engineer said.

The police's consent is required because traffic management on the flyover is their responsibility. The port trust being the custodian of Howrah bridge, any construction in the vicinity must have its approval.

Pier progress

Work hasn't started on a 150-metre stretch in six years because the CMDA hasn't been able to obtain permission from the Calcutta Port Trust to build piers for the Girish Park-bound ramp.

"A pier each will have to be built on land owned by two organisations, including the port trust. We can't start any work there till they give us permission," an engineer said.

A letter granting permission to use land owned by the Mint arrived on November 5, six years after the project started. The port trust has yet to give the green signal, although a senior official of the CMDA said the authorities had promised to do so.

The responsibility of obtaining clearance for anything related to the Vivekananda Road flyover rests with the CMDA, which is the implementing agency for the project.

Work hours

Engineers associated with the project say the six-hours-a-day schedule being followed is too little to complete the flyover by February. "We are allowed access to the site from 11pm till 5am. The police won't allow us to work there at any other time," said a CMDA official.

The CMDA's concrete-mix plant is located near Ruby General Hospital, on the Bypass, and transportation of materials to the construction site itself takes two hours on an average.

"We are left with only four hours a day to work, which is inadequate to say the least," the engineer said.

An official of IVRCL Ltd said the police should work out an alternative traffic circulation plan and give the company more space and time to work. "The police never allowed us to barricade a sufficient portion of the road. We would complete one pier and only then were we allowed to start work on the next one. Under normal circumstances, several piers are built simultaneously."

Posta problem

A problem cropped up around two months ago that threatens to throw the remainder of the project off track.

While digging the road near the Posta crossing to build two piers, engineers came across a brick sewer underneath. The location of the sewer overlaps the site where the piers were supposed to come up, based on the original design. "We had no idea that there was a brick sewer underneath that portion of the road. We are now digging another spot close to the old one to find free space for the piers," said a member of the engineering team.

As and when the construction company finds space for the piers without disturbing the brick sewer, it would need to ask for a new design for that portion. The revised plan would require a safety clearance from experts at Jadavpur University and the CMDA.

Nobody has yet contemplated what will happen if IVRCL fails to find space for the piers away from the sewer.

"The piers can't be shifted far away either because that would entail redesigning a long stretch of the flyover. That isn't possible since three-fourths of the flyover has already been built," an engineer said.