Kolkata: The ministry of railways, which holds 74% equity in Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (KMRCL), has offered an incentive to the company if it succeeds in speeding up the East-West Metro work. If KMRCL succeeds in utilizing the Rs 1,100 crore allocated to it for 2018-19, there is an additional Rs 549.5 crore waiting to be used.
In 2017-18, the E-W Metro had been allocated Rs 1,937 crore, but KMRCL had not been able to spend even 50% of the sum due to land hurdles and ensuing court cases. Now that matters have been sorted out and work is on in full swing, officials say they will not only use up Rs 1,100 crore, but also a major portion of the incentive if not the whole of it.
“By offering such incentives, the railways is not keeping additional funds locked for a certain project while conveying to the implementing agency that officials need to be proactive and resolve issues faster. Delays in implementation cost money and now that all issues have been resolved, KMRCL officials should make all efforts to keep construction going at top speed,” a senior official in the Railway Board said.
The year 2017 was very crucial for KMRCL. In April, tunnel boring machines (TBMs) began working on the most challenging part of the project -tunneling below River Hooghly to connect Howrah with Kolkata. Even before the TBMs reached the Kolkata end, trouble started over the temporary evacuation of old buildings in Burrabazar, Strand Road and Brabourne Road areas.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) also raised objections regarding the fate of heritage structures in the area. The defence ministry also took its time handing over land at Curzon Park for the Esplanade station that will be an interface between the existing north-south corridor, the E-W Metro and the Joka-BBD Bag link. Matters over evacuation of residents and the fate of heritage buildings came to a stage when Calcutta High Court directed KMRCL to slow down the pace of TBMs.
“Kolkata is an old city and there are several challenges, such as protection of heritage structures and shifting of underground utilities. The project has also faced problems of land acquisition. While people in Duttabad had to be rehabilitated, the alignment had to be shifted after residents of Bowbazar refused to move. The original interface with the northsouth corridor was to be at Central. Due to all this, the deadline of the project had to be revised thrice,” a KMRCL official said.
The company is now gearing up for commissioning of the first phase between Salt Lake Sector V and Salt Lake stadium in June, 2018. The stretch between Sector V and Sealdah is likely to be completed a year later and KMRCL is planning to throw open the entire corridor by 2020.