IT was in 1984 that Kolkata had gifted India the country’s first Metro railway. Now, 33 years down the line, the City of Joy has added another first to India’s urban transportation landscape.
The public sector Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation Ltd today, 14 April 2017, commenced work on digging up under river Metro rail tunnels that will connect Howrah to Salt Lake via north Kolkata.
The 520 metre long twin river tunnels, passing under the Hooghly river, are part of East-West Metro Corridor that KMRCL is constructing since 2009. The 16.55 km Metro corridor is to run from Salt Lake Sector-V to Howrah Maidan.
Today morning, KMRCL organised a puja at Ramkrishnapur Ghat located opposite to Howrah railway station on Hooghly river bank, seeking blessings of the river God. Following this, a tunnel boring machine ceremoniously began the tunnelling work.
“This is happening for the first time in the country. We have made all necessary arrangements to ensure safety of our workers and complete the task smoothly,” project manager Virendra Kaul said.
The proposed tunnels will be dug about 90 feet or 18 metres below the Hooghly river. They will run from below Howrah station post office at Howrah station-end, to Armenian Ghat, at Kolkata-end, about a 1-km away from the business hub Burrabazar.
Of the two underwater tunnels, one is for Howrah-bound Metro trains; the other is for Salt Lake-bound trains. KMRCL officials said that 250 workers will be working on the tunnels on a daily basis.
The target is to place 10 concrete rings a day, each of which measures 1.5 metres. Project engineers said that at this rate they should be able to complete the 520 metre twin tunnels in the next three months, that is, by end June.
Once this happens, Kolkata would have added yet another feather to its glory. People, however, shall have to wait at least until 2020 to ride a Metro train passing below the Hooghly river.
KMRCL has plans to throw open a near 7 km stretch from Salt Lake to Phoolbagan, off Sealdah station, by end 2018. The stretch between Phoolbagan to Howrah Maidan via Sealdah shall have to wait for the work to get completed.
SIX METRO EXTENSION PROJECTS IN KOLKATA MAKE LITTLE PROGRESS DUE TO LAND HURDLE AND LACK OF COOPERATION FROM STATE & CENTRAL GOVT AGENCIES
By bappaditya paul
Mumbai threw open its first Metro route last Sunday (08 June) and other cities across India are moving fast to catch up.
But even as Metro services have spread in other cities, Kolkata is literally squatting on 102.50 km Metro extension projects that have the potential to revolutionise transport facilities in the city. Ironically, Kolkata was the first in India to get a Metro system way back in 1984; its existing north-south Metro route is 27.27 km long.
The 102.50 km Metro extension in Kolkata is spread over six projects and they were sanctioned between 2008 and 2012. But even after the lapse of so many years, the projects have made little progress due to non-availability of land and lack of cooperation from different agencies of the state and Central governments.
Going by a rough estimate, till date only 26 per cent of the work has been completed and going by the complex nature of the hurdles, none of the officials involved with the projects are willing to hazard a guess as to when they will be ready.
DUM DUM – BARANAGAR:
Length: 4.50 km.
Sanction year: 2010-11.
Estimated cost: Rs 411.06 crore.
Status: 1.93 km stretch incomplete.
Reason: 319 encroachments on railway land between Noapara and Baranagar. Owing to this, a private contractor appointed by Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) backed out last year.
Way out: RVNL now looking for a new contractor and state government’s assistance to remove the encroachments.
Length: 18.13 km.
Sanction year: 2010-11.
Estimated cost: Rs 2582.55 crore.
Status: Work stalled. Two work orders issued to L&T for Airport to Barasat stretch cancelled.
Reason: 800 encroachments on railway land between Noapara and Airport and 1,884 encroachments between Airport and Barasat.
Way out: Metro Railway has written to Railway Board to truncate the route at Airport; wants state’s intervention to remove the 800 encroachments.
JOKA-BBD BAGH-DIAMOND PARK:
Length: 18.72 km.
Sanction year: 2010-11 & 2012-13.
Estimated cost: Rs 2913.51 crore.
Status: No progress beyond the construction of 7.5 km elevated portion between Joka and Majerhat.
Reason: Union Finance Ministry yet to give permission for a 300 metre stretch that will pass through Kolkata Mint premises at New Alipore. Defence Ministry yet to grant permission for a near 5 km underground stretch between Mominpur and Maidan. State government yet to complete land acquisition for a 25-acre plot at Joka needed for Metro car-shed.
Way out: Speedy NOC from Finance and Defence Ministry; proactive steps by state government for Joka land acquisition.
NEW GARIA-AIRPORT VIA RAJARHAT:
Length: 32 km.
Sanction year: 2010-11
Estimated cost: Rs 4259.50 crore.
Status: Only 35 per cent piling work complete and some pillars erected on stretch between Ruby and Patuli More on E M Bypass and in New Town.
Reason: KMC wants RVNL to pay Rs 251 crore for 20,000 square feet land for two elevated stations near Pragati Maidan police station and Bartaman Building on E M Bypass. Villagers stalling work on 150 metre stretch of land near Hidco Bhavan in Rajarhat claiming that it belongs to them.
Way out: RVNL ready to pay only a token amount to KMC on the logic that Metro is a public utility service. Hidco’s intervention to end the stalemate at Hatihara.
Length: 14.50 km.
Sanction year: 2010-11
Estimated cost: Rs 2069.60 crore.
Status: Work has not moved an inch on the Barrackpore route.
Reason: KMC yet to relocate two underground water pipelines (60” and 42” in diameter) that run along BT Road along the proposed Metro route. 1,250 encroachments on state government land beside BT Road along the proposed alignment.
Way out: Relocation of the water pipelines and removal of encroachments.
EAST-WEST (SALT LAKE-HOWRAH) CORRIDOR:
Length: 14.67 km.
Sanction year: 2008-09
Estimated cost: Rs 2,984 crore.
Status: Around 60 per cent of the elevated stretch between Salt Lake Sector V and E M Bypass complete; underground stretch between Phoolbagan and Sealdah station complete. Work stalled between Sealdah and Howrah Maidan.
Reason: The alignment between Sealdah and Writers’ Buildings yet to be finalised; some land owners at Bowbazar have moved to High Court opposing land acquisition for the Metro route. State government yet to give KMRCL a 400 square metre piece of land on Brabourne Road (near Writers’ Buildings) for the underground tunneling work up to Howrah Maidan.
Way out: Early allotment of the plot on Brabourne Road and state’s proactive role to end the legal impasse over the Bowbazar stretch.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 15 June 2014.)
METRO TAKES DECISION DUE TO LAND HURDLE; SENDS MODIFIED PROPOSAL TO RAILWAY BOARD
By bappaditya paul
Kolkata Metro Railway authorities have approached the Railway Board to truncate the Noapara-Barasat Metro corridor at the city airport as the project is making little progress due to land hurdle at the Barasat-end.The move comes a year after the Metro authorities foreclosed or cancelled the two work-orders that it had issued to L&T for laying a 5.7 km Metro track between the Airport and Barasat owing to encroachments on the proposed alignment. This was part of the 18.13-km Noapara-Barasat Metro corridor sanctioned in 2010-11 at an estimated cost that now stands at Rs 2,582.55-crore.
According to sources, Metro Railway has written to the Railway Board early in May with a modified plan to construct a 1.7 km underground Metro line in the airport premise, as they do not see the possibility of any headway in the project beyond the airport.
“In the original plan for Noapara-Barasat Metro corridor, there is the provision for a 5.6 km underground route in and around the airport. But since encroachment on railway land is not allowing progress on the full stretch, we have urged the Board to allow us to terminate the route at the airport itself, which can be achieved by constructing a 1.7 km underground track instead,” said a senior Metro Railway official. “Work on the stretch between Airport and Barasat can be taken up later if we get the land in future.”
The modified plan will necessitate augmenting the infrastructure of the Metro car-shed at Noapara to park additional rakes for running trains up to the airport. Originally, the plan was to construct a car-shed at Barasat to park and feed Metro rakes for the entire route.
“The Board is empowered to approve the modified plan as this is an already sanctioned project and there is no need to take this through the Rail Budget route. We are hoping that the Board will give us a go ahead soon,” another Metro officer said.But even if the Railway Board approves the modified plan, it will not be all clear for the near 6 km Metro route from Noapara to the airport. There are around 800 encroachers sitting on railway land along the proposed alignment near Dum Dum Cantonment and Jessop-siding.
Till now, Metro authorities have been carrying forward construction work for the elevated portion on the route where the land is encroachment-free.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 11 June 2014.)
Call it an irony that Mamata Banerjee government’s refusal to hike bus fare is proving to be a double whammy for the commuters in Kolkata! While people are already in the lurch due to withdrawal of buses by private operators, Kolkata’s lifeline Metro Railway has now delayed its plan to increase trains on Saturdays till the time the state government revises the bus fare.
This is despite the fact that Metro trains are witnessing higher crowd on Saturdays, in turn making the ride into a real ordeal for commuters. With 204 trains, Metro Railway carries an average 5.10-lakh passengers on Saturdays; on weekdays it transports 5.50-lakh commuters with the number of trains being 274. This comes to around 2,500 passengers every Metro train on Saturdays as against the 2,007 persons a train on weekdays.
Kolkata Metro train that run with eight coaches are designed to carry a maximum 2,558 passengers.
Metro Railway authorities however are of the view that the high passenger density on Saturdays was the result of a drop in number of buses and the scenario might change once the bus fare is increased. At present, the minimum fare for both Metro and bus is Rs 5.
“A hike in bus fare is likely to have any of the two implications. First, this may prompt private operators to run more buses and in turn result in a fall in Metro passengers as people will have more option. The second scenario can be that if the bus fare becomes almost equal to that of Metro, there will be a surge in Metro commuters,” said a senior Metro Railway official. “This is why we have decided to delay our plans to increase trains till the time the government revises the bus fare. For a moment, we are not looking at a huge drop in Metro passengers after a bus fare hike; what we are foreseeing is that in the changed scenario there may be a higher crowd on weekdays. In that case, we shall have no other choice but to increase trains on weekdays,” the officer said.
At this point, Metro authorities are averse to increasing trains on Saturdays, as they will not be able to reduce the number of trains even if there is an increase in weekday demand later. Metro Railway has 27 rakes, which the authorities say is not sufficient to increase trains on all seven days a week.
Metro at present operates 274 trains daily from Monday to Friday, 204 trains on Saturday and 96 trains on Sunday.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 10 June 2014.)
Metro Railway has failed to fix the teething trouble in its air-conditioned (AC) rakes in nearly three years since the first AC rake was introduced to the Metro fleet. Metro Railway now has 13 AC rakes and on an average they encounter three snags a month, throwing up the schedule of six lakh plus commuters up side down. In the first quarter this fiscal, from April to June, Metro trains reported 15 snags; majority nine in AC rakes. In 2012-13, snags in AC rakes were 32 out of the total 63 reported.
The nature of the snags that make the AC rakes stall is recurrent and has been there ever since the first Ac rake was introduced to the Metro fleet on 7 October 2010. These include ~ brake binding, malfunctioning of control circuit, faults in power circuit and battery failure.
Of them, brake binding, which means non-releasing of the brake when a train is ready to leave a station and leads to smoke emission from the undercarriage, is so common that every single Metro commuter has heard of this at least once.
There is another issue that is bothering the commuters ~ leaking of water from AC vents inside the coaches. “Water simply dribbles down the AC vents, sometimes even making it impossible to stand or sit in some parts of the trains. I have witnessed the trouble intensify on humid days,” said Mr Anup Baroi who takes the Metro everyday from Dum Dum to reach central Kolkata. In 2011, when snags in the AC rakes were more frequent, Metro authorities had summoned experts from Knorr-Bremse, Germany, in whose collaboration the Chennai-based Integral Coach Factory had manufactured the AC rakes. Knorr-Bremse experts on that occasion spent months at the Metro’s Noapara car-shed and succeeded to fix problems relating to the train doors.
They also imparted training to Metro officials on maintenance of the AC rakes, but after near three years it has now become apparent that either the maintenance job is not being done properly or the rakes have inherent maladies that keep on resurfacing.
A senior Metro official said that lack of resource ~ both financial and material ~ was an impediment for proper upkeep of the rakes. “Having said this, let it be clarified that snags in trains are not unusual; our target is to minimise it to the extent possible. Such snags are even common in Delhi Metro.” A Delhi Metro spokesperson however said that their rakes “barely report one snag in two months.” “The troubles that we encounter are mostly related to overhead electric (OHE) power supply and auto application of emergency brakes. We never ever had the problem of water leaking from AC vents inside coaches.”
Delhi Metro now has about 200 rakes manufactured by Bombardier (Canada) and Rotem (South Korea).
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This is an elaborate version of the report that first appeared in The Statesman on 4 August 2013 under a different headline.)
Barely three years of the station being opened, rainwater has started leaking through the ground-floor ceiling of Shahid Khudiram (Briji) Metro station in Kolkata, inconveniencing commuters and staff alike.
Today at noon, rainwater dribbled down through two places at the station’s ground floor ~ in front of the flap entry gates and near the station superintendent (SS) control room. Passengers had to bypass the area while making entry through the flap gates to avoid getting drenched. Metro staff placed a bucket in front of the SS control room to stop the rainwater from spilling over the station’s central atrium.
The station staff said that this was not happening for the first time. “This has been happening for sometime now whenever it rains a little too heavy. It seems rainwater that accumulates on the viaduct and flows into the elevated track-bed is making its way through some porous zones. Earlier it was only in front of the SS control room where rainwater was dribbling down in small volume, but now the situation is getting worse and new areas are also being affected,” said a station staff unwilling to be named.
Contacted over the issue, Metro Railway’s chief engineer, Parasuram Singh, said that rainwater was probably seeping because of loosening of the seal put in place to cover the gap between girders within the station area or because of jamming of the “roof-gutters” that are meant for draining out rainwater. “Until now, the matter didn’t come to my notice. We will look into it and fix the problem at the earliest,” he said over the phone.
Shahid Khudiram Metro station is the last but one station located on Kolkata’s southern fringes, between Garia Bazar and Garia railway station, and was thrown open to passengers on 7 October 2010. The construction work for the Metro’s viaduct between Tollygunge and New Garia and also the stations, was outsourced to four private construction firms.
Apart from Shahid Khudiram station, leakage of water has been troubling commuters at Kavi Subhash Metro station as well. Water has been oozing at the entrance of the approach steps that leads to the sub-urban Up platform for sometime now but the authorities have been reluctant to fix the malady.
(The author is Senior Reporter, The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 14 June 2013.)
Kolkata’s lifeline, Metro Railway, has registered an operating loss of around Rs 125 crore during 2012-13 fiscal ending 31 March. This is up by Rs 25.71 crore as compared to the loss that the Metro reported last year. As a result, Metro Railway’s operating ratio has jumped to Rs 326.97 from Rs 311 last year. This means, during 2012-13 fiscal, Metro authorities spent Rs 326.97 to earn every Rs 100.
The development may not have any immediate impact on commuters, but in the long run this is likely to affect Metro Railway’s upkeep and expansion plans as is already evident from this year’s Rail Budget allocation.
In this Rail Budget, Metro has received a total allocation of Rs 605 crore for its six ongoing projects as compared to the Rs 3,600 crore that was allocated during 2011-12. According to Metro officials, non-revision of the passenger fares for the past 10 years and the rising costs of electricity and other working expenses are the primary reasons for the ever-mounting loss.
The last time Kolkata Metro fares were increased was in 2002. “In 2009, we used to pay the CESC Rs 4.22 for an unit of power, in 2010 that rose to Rs 4.72 per unit. In 2011 it was Rs 5.16 per unit and in 2012 it was Rs 6.06 per unit. But this notwithstanding, our passenger fares remain the same as it was in 2002,” said a senior Metro Railway official.
At present Kolkata Metro charges Rs 14 for a 25.12-km ride from Dum Dum to Kavi Subhash (New Garia), as against the Rs 23 the Delhi Metro charges for a 25.15-km ride from Dilshad Garden to Rithala.
Besides, commuters using prepaid Smart Cards get a rebate ranging between 20 to 37 per cent depending on the amount they recharge.These days, around 5.16 lakh people travel by the Metro everyday and over 50 per cent of them use Smart Cards.
What is proving to be a double whammy for Metro Railway is that not only has its power bill gone up in the past few years, the consumption, too, is gradually on the rise due to increase in the number of trains.
“In 2009, our power consumption was 84.27 million unit, in 2010 it was 97.08 million unit, and in 2011 it was 98.87 million unit and in 2012 it stood at 105.49 million unit. As a result of this and also escalation in other working expenses, our annual cost for running a train now stands at Rs 44,691 from what used to be Rs 32,325 in 2009,” the Metro official said.
While Metro officials do not see the possibility of any immediate increase in passenger fares, they are now concentrating on earning additional revenue from advertisements on trains and at the stations. “The target is to minimise the losses to the extent possible.”
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 1 May 2013.)
Kolkata’s Metro Railway has not revised its service hours for the past 10 years. The last time Metro’s weekday service hours was extended by 25 minutes was in 2002.
Ever since, from Monday to Saturday, Metro trains from both ends ~ Dum Dum in the north and Kavi Subhash (New Garia) in the south ~ start at 7 in the morning and the last trains depart at 9.45 in the evening. On Sundays, the services start at 2 in the afternoon, but the closing time is same.
This despite the working hours of Kolkatans and those living in suburbs extending till late into the evening.
Several new industries, such as the information technology and information technology-enabled services where the traditional 10-5 work schedule is obsolete, have also come up. Employees need to work in shifts, commencing even at 10 p.m. But curiously the country’s first underground train system ~ the Kolkata Metro ~ which began operations on 24 October 1984 has remained unresponsive to the changing needs of its patrons.
In fact, in its 28-year history, Metro Railway has revised the service hours only on three occasions (see chart). Whereas the Metro route, which was initially only 3.4 km from Esplanade to Bhowanipore; now covers a distance of 25.24 km from Dum Dum to New Garia. For obvious reasons a large number of commuters are demanding the extension of Metro service hours, especially during the evening.
“I travel from Sonarpur to my office on Camac Street and avail the Metro on the Kavi Subhash-Maidan stretch. But on the return leg, I am compelled to give the Metro a miss as by 10.15 p.m., when I make it to the Maidan station, the last south-bound train is already gone. There are many like me and considering our plight, the Metro authorities should extend the services, at least by half-an-hour, in the evening,” said Arindam Sarkar, employed with a multinational logistic firm. Sonali Dasgupta of Gariahat, who works for a publishing house at Esplanade and after office hours in the evening loves spending an hour or so with friends at Park Street, echoed. Metro Railway spokesperson Protyush Ghosh, however, ruled out extending the service hours any time soon.
“The maintenance of Metro tracks and rakes can be done only after the services end at night. Given that most of our rakes are pretty old, they take more time for maintenance and so in the present scenario we cannot extend the service hours,” he said. This even as the Delhi Metro, which too carries out its maintenance work during non-service hours, operates trains from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on all its six routes. The Delhi Metro began operations on 24 December 2002.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This piece first appeared in The Statesman on 17 July 2012.)
Apparently after collecting data on passenger travel, the Metro Railway recently introduced a new “peak-hour” slot for its train services, but this is causing severe inconvenience to the passengers.
Metro Railway introduced the new schedule on 29 May, wherein instead of 9-10 a.m, which is normally considered rush-hour, it picked up two new “peak-hour” slots for running Metro trains at five-minute intervals.
According to the new schedule, in the morning, the “peak-hour” for the trains from Dum Dum to New Garia is 10-11 a.m. and for the trains from New Garia to Dum Dum, it is 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
During the evening, the “peak-hour” for the trains from Dum Dum to New Garia is 5-6 p.m. and for the trains from New Garia to Dum Dum it is 6-7 p.m.
The Metro authorities introduced the new schedule with the stated objective of giving commuters the benefit of five-minute service. But instead, this is now proving to be a bane for its patrons.
While the commuters do not have too many complaints about the selection of evening “peak-hour”, there is widespread resentment about the morning slot.
This is because their peak-hour and the Metro’s peak-hour do not tally and as a result a large section of commuters is failing to reach their destination on time.
“The selection of 11 a.m.-12 p.m. as the peak-hour period is simply bizarre and there should be a probe from whose fertile brain this idea has come up. For commuters like me, who used to rely on the Metro to reach office on time, are the worst hit,” said Ms Madhumita Basu, a Central government employee who travels from Masterda Surya Sen (Usha Gate) station to Rabindra Sadan everyday.
What is worse, for commuters travelling from New Garia in its so-called generosity to provide trains at five-minute interval from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m, the Metro has increased the gap between trains to eight-minute between 9-10 a.m.
As a result, Metro trains these days are witnessing excessive pressure during the actual peak-hour (9-10 a.m.), leaving the commuters in the lurch, especially women, who are complaining of physical harassment in crammed trains.
“Instead of this present five-minute service during the so called “peak-hour”, the previous schedule was far more beneficial for us when the trains were running at six-minute interval for 11 hours from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Moreover, that schedule was uniform for trains from both directions,” said Mr Abinash Choudhury, who lives at Baguiati and avails the Metro service from Belgachhia station.
The Metro authorities, however, said the new schedule was finalised after analysing the data on passenger flow.
“Data was collected from each of the 23 stations to identify the period when commuters avail Metro trains more and the new schedule was decided accordingly,” said the Metro Railway spokesperson, Mr Protyush Ghosh.
“Moreover, keeping in mind the high flow of passengers at Tollygunge in the morning, we are operating three additional trains from midway at the Mahanayak Uttam Kumar station. This, in effect, is offering the commuters from Tollygunge five-minute Metro service for an additional half-an-hour between 8.45 – 9.15 a.m” he said.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This piece first appeared in The Statesman on 12 July 2012.)
“Kolkata’s Pride” ~ the Metro Railway, recorded a loss of Rs 99.26 crore in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
This is Rs 15.35 crore higher the operating loss the country’s oldest tube railway reported the previous year. As regards the operating ratio, in 2011-12, Metro Railway spent Rs 304.72 for every Rs 100 it earned.
Although the Metro’s growing losses threaten the quality of services used by more than five lakh commuters every day, a fare hike to reduce the losses is unlikely this year, railway sources said. From April 2011 to March 2012, Metro Railway earned Rs 107.14 crore. Of this, Rs 91.37 crore came from passenger fares, and Rs 15.77 crore from other sources, such as leasing out advertising space and renting out commercial space at some stations.
The Metro’s working expenditure during the period was Rs 206.40 crore.
If the Rs 118.91 crore Metro coughed up for Pension and Depreciation Reserve Fund (DRF) is taken into account, its gross loss in 2011-12 was Rs 218.17 crore. The Railway Board decides the DRF contribution for each of the railway zones in the country.
Metro officials say the rising cost of power is the prime reason for the growing losses. “Metro fares have not been revised for a decade now, even as the cost of energy has gone up manifold. With seven air-conditioned rakes now being put to service, the volume of energy consumption has shot up,” a senior official said.Fares on the Kolkata Metro are only about half of fares on the Delhi Metro. In Kolkata, riders pay Rs 4 to Rs 14 (Rs 2.19 to Rs 9.43 for Smart Card users). In Delhi, riders pay Rs 8 to Rs 30. The Delhi Metro hiked fares by Rs 2 in 2010, according to a spokesperson.
Kolkata Metro deputy general manager and spokesperson Protyush Ghosh said he was “not the competent authority” to comment on whether his organisation has any plans to hike fares.
Another top-level official, who did not want to be named, said: “After the sacking of (Mr) Dinesh Trivedi for proposing a passenger fare hike in the Railway Budget, would anyone in the Railway Board even dare think rising the Metro fares in Kolkata? There is no chance of hiking the fare, at least, this year.”
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This piece first appeared in The Statesman on 25 April 2012.)