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.
BEGINNING TODAY (Saturday, 4 March)Metro Railway, Kolkata has increased the number of trains on weekends.
Now on, Metro Railway will operate 224 trains every Saturday instead of the previous 206 trains. On Sundays, the number of trains will be 110 as against the previous 94.
The minimum and maximum frequency of trains on Saturdays will be 7 minutes and 15 minutes, respectively; on Sundays it will be 10 minutes and 20 minutes. Prior to this, the train frequency on Saturday ranged between 7 to 20 minutes and on Sunday it was between 15 to 30 minutes.
The increase in number of trains on weekends comes as a great relief for commuters who had been compelled to travel in crammed Metro coaches with the ever swelling crowd.
Metro Railway carries an average of 4.83-lakh passengers on Saturdays; on Sundays, it transports around 2.53 lakh passengers. As against this, the number of people travelling by Metro on weekdays is around 5.72 lakh when the number of trains operated is 274 a day.
LACK OF MOBILE CONNECTIVITY IN METRO TUNNELS MAKES MOCKERY OF SECURITY HELPLINES
By bappaditya paul A young woman travelling in a crowded Metro train is being constantly shoved by a man; she feels uncomfortable and moves away. The man repositions himself and continues to harass the woman, compelling her to directly ask him to behave. But this warning too going in vain, the woman rings up the Metro Help Line from her mobile phone. Officials manning the help line acts promptly and the man is arrested by Railway Protection Force the moment he steps of out of the train at a next Metro station.This is a promotional video that Metro Railway airs day in and day out on TV sets installed on platforms of all its stations. Now cut to the reality:
Last Monday, Antara Kanungo (24) boarded a Metro from Netaji (Kudghat) station for Central and got a corner seat in the ladies’ section. A flock of young men boarded the train from Rabindra Sarobar and stood huddling together beside the door; one of them rested his back on the handrail of Antara’s seat. She requested the youth to stand straight; instead of obliging, he gave her a dirty look and asked her to travel by taxi if she was averse to such touch. A co-traveller voiced a protest only to be booed down by the loutish youths.
Outraged, Antara dialed the Metro Help Line from her mobile but alas there is no signal on her Vodafone connection! The co-passenger with Airtel connection offers help but the signal fails her as well.“I felt so helpless. The man got down at Esplanade much before I stepped out on the Central station platform and my phone’s signal became live again,” Antara said in a frustrated tone.
It is, however, not an issue with Vodafone or Airtel signal alone; mobile signal of no operator is available in Metro trains when they pass through tunnels. Signals are partially available only on Kolkata Metro ticketing areas and platforms where the operators have installed “repeaters or micro BTS” for which they pay an annual license fee to Metro Railway. These repeaters or micro BTS have a low coverage area.
But as if oblivious of this, Metro Railway in January this year introduced two help lines ~ a Women Help Line and Security Help Line ~ to enable passengers to contact from moving train should there be a need.
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), whose members include almost all big private mobile operators, are not willing to shoulder the blame.
“There is no (mobile) signal as the tunnels are not wired with network,” said Mr V K Cherian, COAI’s director corporate communications, without clarifying whether their members would take initiative to address the issue.Asked about the modalities on which private operators were charged for installing micro BTSs at Metro stations and why they were failing to ensure connectivity inside the tunnels, Metro Railway’s Chief Traffic Manager (CTM) Mr K V Rao, refused to respond. “This is not linked to public interest and hence I will not respond,” Mr Rao said in a rude tone unbecoming of a senior railway officer. In Metro it is the CTM who looks after all commercial aspects such as renting out a space or facility to a private entity.
Metro Railway spokesperson, Mr R N Mahaptra, however, said that they were “working closely with all operators to ensure mobile connectivity inside the tunnels.”
In December 2013, at a cost of Rs 18-crore, Metro had introduced in its trains and tunnels a dedicated internal mobile telecommunications facility called GSM-R for the use of its train drivers. Metro sources said that the plan now was to lease out a bandwidth from GSM-R to the private mobile operators so that they could provide connectivity to the subscribers.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 3 August 2014.)
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.)
KOLKATA METRO CUTS DOWN LOSSES FIRST TIME IN RECENT YEARS
By bappaditya paul Thanks to the fare hike in November last year, Metro Railway for the first time in recent memory has cut down losses and has improved its operating ratio. In the 2013-14 fiscal year that ended on 31 March, Metro reported an operating loss of Rs 110.84 crore. But the silver lining for Kolkata’s lifeline is that, the loss this time was Rs 14.16 crore less than the previous year; in 2012-13 the loss was Rs 125 crore.
Consequent to this, Metro Railway’s operating ratio has improved to Rs 286 from what was Rs 328 the previous year. This means, during 2013-14, Metro Railway spent Rs 286 to earn every Rs 100; this is an improvement of Rs 42.
This is a good sign as Metro has been in the red for over a decade now and the losses were mounting up year after year. In 2010-11 the operating loss was Rs 83.91 crore, in 2011-12 Rs 99.26 crore and in 2012-13 Rs 125 crore. Sources in Metro Railway said that in 2013-14, Metro’s total work expenditure stood at Rs 255.89 crore and the gross earning was Rs 145.05 crore. As regards the quarter-to-quarter earnings, it registered a remarkable leap in passenger revenue in the third and fourth quarter, that is, between October and March.
“The Metro fare was hiked on 7 November. Consequent to this, we witnessed Rs 10.84 crore increase in passenger revenue during October to December and Rs 16.33 crore increase during January to March. This has largely helped us to cut down the losses,” said a senior official in Metro Railway. In November, the Metro fare was hiked by 25 to 85 per cent based on different distance slabs: Rs 5 for a journey up to five km, Rs 10 for 5-10 km, Rs 15 for 10-20 km, Rs 20 for 20-25 km and Rs 25 for 25-30 km. Prior to that, Metro used to charge Rs 4 up to five km, Rs 6 for 5-10 km, Rs 8 for 10-15 km, Rs 10 for 15-20 km, Rs 12 for 20-25 km and Rs 14 for 25-30 km.
In 2013-14 Metro Railway carried 19.52 crore passengers as compared to the 18.83 crore who traveled the previous year.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 28 May 2014.)
Near 100 per cent rise to affect 6,50,000 commuters
By bappaditya paul
Kolkata Metro Railway fares will go up by about 100 per cent with effect from 18 October. The Railway Board has issued an order to this effect and sent it to the Metro Railway headquarters here today. The move will affect 6,50,000-odd commuters who travel by Metro trains daily.
According to the existing fare structure, Metro charges between Rs 4 and Rs 14 in six slabs for a ride up to the full distance of 27.27 km from Dum Dum to Noapara. This will now range between Rs 5 and Rs 25.
That’s not all. The concession granted to prepaid Smart Card users has been slashed to a flat rate of 10 per cent irrespective of the amount recharged. The concession, in the form of additional money value, will be credited at the time of recharging a card.
At present, Smart Card users get a cumulative concession ranging between 20 – 37 per cent depending on the recharge amount, granted by way of additional money value credited at the time of recharge and by giving a concession on every ride undertaken.
In the new fare structure, the fare has been divided into six slabs: Rs 5 (0-2 km), Rs 10 (2-6 km), Rs 15 (6-12 km), Rs 20 (12-21 km), Rs 25 (21-30 km) and Rs 30 (30-40 km). The last fare slab has been decided keeping in mind the proposed expansion of Metro route in the near future, such as the one to Dakshineswar. The Metro now collects the fare in slabs of Rs 4 (0-5 km), Rs 6 (5-10 km), Rs 8 (10-15 km), Rs 10 (15-20 km), Rs 12 (20-25 km) and Rs 14 (25-30 km).
“We have initiated the upgrade work on our fare collection mechanism, necessary for realising the fare as per the revised structure. We shall be working through the Pujas and start charging the new fare from 18 October,” said Metro Railway general manager Radhey Shyam.
The hike will bring the Kolkata Metro fare almost at par with Delhi Metro, which charges Rs 23 for a 25.15-km ride from Dilshad Garden to Rithala.
The hike in fare will give the Kolkata Metro the much-needed revenue support at a time when it is running at an operating ratio of Rs 326.97 as on 31 March this year; meaning, the Metro spent Rs 326.97 to earn every Rs 100. The operating loss stood at around Rs 125 crore during the 2012-13 fiscal year.
As a result of this, the upkeep of the Metro trains and other facilities was getting affected and so were the Metro expansion projects. The last time Kolkata Metro fare was revised was in 2002.
*ADDED LATER: Following passenger outrage, Metro Railway introduced the revised fare on 7 November instead of 18 October as was originally planned. Also they reduced the hike a little facilitating some relief to commuters. For details, read 7 November 2013 post on this blog.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 9 October 2013.)
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.)