Wheels of Kolkata Metro turn towards massive expansion

June 19th, 2011 - 1:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha Patil Kolkata, June 19 (IANS) Twenty-seven years after it blazed a trail in India, in a city known for its dense crowds and traffic snarls, the Kolkata Metro had over time paled in comparion to its Delhi counterpart. But the city’s Metro network is now set to see a four-fold expansion - with some snazzy additions.

Traversing 25 km, connecting Kolkata’s northern tip with the extreme south, it serves as a lifeline for around 550,000 commuters daily. Now, with four new projects totalling 85 km, the network is set to cover around 110 km.

“With the completion of three new lines and another announced recently, we will have an operational line of around 110 km,” a Metro spokesperson told IANS.

“Two of the projects are likely to be completed within 14-16 months, while it will take 30 months to complete the first phase of the city’s longest metro link,” the spokesperson added, not wishing to be identified citing official rules.

With the introduction of a Rs.56-crore automatic fare collection (AFC) and new ticketing system, the Kolkata Metro is also going snazzy. Three air-conditioned rakes have been introduced, giving much-needed respite to commuters in the sultry weather.

“There will be interchanging facilities for the passengers from one Metro corridor to another and also from suburban train services of Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway,” the spokesperson said.

“Besides, we have plans to introduce the common ticket system for the commuters who need to avail themselves of different modes of rail transport to reach their destinations,” the spokesperson added.

It is India’s only Metro network under Indian Railways.

Work is now on along the 5.2 km Dum Dum-Dakshineswar route, which will be further extended 12.5 km to Barrackpore.

Another 18.5-km route from Noapara to Barasat via Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport has also been sanctioned and construction has started on this stretch.

Construction work has also begun along the 16.72 km-long-metro line from Joka in extreme South Kolkata to BBD Bagh in central Kolkata. The project was inaugurated by President Pratibha Patil.

Another extension project between New Garia and the airport (32 km) via EM Bypass and Salt Lake was inaugurated by then railway minister and now Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Feb 7.

“A total of Rs.11,000 crore will be spent on the metro extension projects,” the spokesperson said.

“Banerjee, while notifying the Kolkata Metro Railway as the 17th zone under Indian Railways in December last year, also allotted Rs.10 crore for the overhauling of the existing metro stations,” the spokesperson added.

“We are eagerly waiting for the inauguration of metro route between New Garia and the airport via Salt Lake as it will save my time, energy and money to travel between my house and office,” said Subhra Pan, an IT employee from Patuli in South 24 Parganas.

“To reach my office in Salt Lake every day, I have to board a bus and then wait for a shuttle car. It is very exhausting, but I have no other option,” said Pan.

Punctual to the minute and fast, the Kolkata Metro has been winning plaudits from commuters for its smooth rides and cleanliness in a city otherwise known for its traffic snarls, potholed streets and squalor.

The metro, which started its journey Oct 24, 1984, was constructed entirely by Indian Railway engineers, without help from a single foreign consultant or foreign contractor. The major stretch of the metro lies below sea level.

It is also an eco-friendly transport system that does not emit any harmful gas, as it runs on electricity. Closed circuit cameras installed at all stations are monitored from the control room in the nodal office to ensure security.

The 25-km-long North-South metro corridor came up in phases and the latest three kilometre extension route in the south was inaugurated in October 2010 by Banerjee.

However, compared to the Delhi Metro, which started its run in 2002, the Kolkata Metro’s growth has been slow, and the comfort factor is also low. With 184 km of operational lines and 135 stations across the city, the Delhi Metro transports 1.5 million people per day.

However, till date the Kolkata Metro is the cheapest means of urban transportation in the country. The minimum fare is Rs.4 for the first five km and maximum Rs.20 for over 20 km ride - making it a matter of pride for residents.

(Sabyasachi Roy can be contacted at sabyasachi.r@ians.in)

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