The first underwater metro project in the country and the second metro project in Kolkata will begin truncated services from February 13. Services along the much-awaited mega infrastructure project called East-West Metro will start along the 5-km route from Salt Lake Sector V to the Salt Lake Stadium.

“The inauguration will be on February 13 and the services will be opened for passengers from the next day. There are six stations along the route,” the spokesperson of the Kolkata Metro Indrani Banerjee said. The six stations will be operational through an elevated corridor along the route. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal is expected to flag off the ₹8,575-crore project at an event where invitations are likely to be extended to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

The Commissioner of Railway Safety had given the go-ahead to the truncated services in October 2019 but a few more months went by for the signaling system and alignment of trains at the platform.

The 16.6-km East-West Metro Project will connect the Howrah Maidan on the other side of the river Hooghly with Rajarahat Newtown on the northeastern fringes of the city. The elevated corridor is 5.8 km long while the underground stretch measures 10.8 km. The tunneling of about 13 meters under the Hooghly river bed was completed in 2017.

The development marks an important chapter in the transport history of Kolkata as the city, with one of the least road space ratios among major metropolises, will get a metro service after three and a half decades. The Kolkata Metro that connects Noapara in the northern parts of the city to Garia in the south along the 27.22 km, was started in 1984. On a weekday, the Kolkata Metro (North-South) carries about six lakh passengers. The East-West Metro, when it will be fully operational, is expected to ferry about 2 lakh people daily.

The foundation stone of the project was laid in February 2009 and the project was supposed to be completed by October 2014. The delay of more than five years can be attributed to change in the route of the metro. Earlier, the East-West Metro Project was supposed to take a different route and the Central Metro Station was supposed to be the connecting station for both the metros but after protests and objections from the State government the route had to be realigned. It was changed and Esplanade will be the connecting station. The work was stalled from 2012 to 2015 due to realignment.

Questions about the fate of the project had surfaced again in September 2019 when several houses collapsed during underground tunneling in the Bowbazar area. The tunnel-boring machine hit an aquifer resulting in ground subsidence. Hundreds of families were shifted to hotels by the Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation Limited (KMRCL) after the houses collapsed. The last leg of tunneling along the 2.45-km from Bowbazar to Sealdah remains stalled. Once the tunneling is over, the East-West Metro will all be set to connect Howrah and Sealdah station that ferries lakhs of commuters every day.

(With inputs from The Hindu)