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Twenty-seven years after it created history in India — and our very own michhil nagari (the city of rallies ) — the Kolkata Metro now often disappoints the harried commuter who had learnt to take it for granted. But how about Kolkata's lifeline stretching to 110km from a humble 25km in the next three years?No matter how stuttering the progress of work sounds, compared to the Delhi Metro, the four-fold expansion is destined to change the life and times for the Kolkata suburbia forever. Add to it the worldclass East-West Metro, which will take you from Salt Lake's Sector V to Howrah in 30 minutes flat, and Kolkata looks set for a new era in public transportation.The Dum Dum-Kavi Subhas Metro — the country's first — carries 6 lakh passengers a day. You can zip below the traffic chaos at 55kmph and make it from the northern fringes to the... Read more...
southern suburbs in 49 minutes. From one axis, the Metro is well on way to becoming a network.According to former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi's budget speech, five million commuters will avail of the Metro daily by 2016. Only Way Ahead In a city where the road space is a measly 6%, this is news to cheer. "If you take a car or bus from Garia to Dum Dum. it can take you up to three hours, that too if the road is not clogged with traffic and rallies. On the Metro , it takes just 49 minutes. Okay, it's no longer a joy ride it once used to be and you can barely breathe in the maddening crowd, but the Metro will always remain the only option. Its extension is the best thing happening to the City of Joy which has perennial logistic woes. The rapid transit linkages between the city , its suburbs and the airport ... What more can one ask for," said Ayan Chatterjee , an executive with a private company. He isn't the only one to sing paeans to the Metro. Even as the number of car-owning Kolkatans has jumped manifold since the first Metro rolled out on October 24, 1984, most of Kolkata still prefers the underground. Gone are the days when it took the Metro 23 years to cover 17km (the extension beyond Tollygunge ). There may be land acquisition problems , litigation and other issues that have pushed the deadline to 2016. But funds have never flowed this smoothly ever. Money's No Problem Of the total project cost of Rs 11,500 crore , Metro already has Rs 6,000 crore in hand for the extensions in terms of the 2011-12 budget outlay . They extensions include New Garia to Airport (32 km ), Dum Dum to Barasat (18 km ), Dum Dum to Barrackpore via temple town Dakshineswar (20km ) and Joka to BBD Bag (16 .75 km ). It was the experience of India's first Metro that contributed to the sanction of the East-W est corridor connecting Howrah station with the Salt Lake township on July 30 , 2008. The fascinating journey connecting Howrah and Sealdah (two of the world's busiest railway stations ) which would sink down the Hooghly riverbed (another first in the country ) would also happen around 2015, all factors remaining constant. That's not all. "Metro Railways has initiated a survey for extending beyond Barrackpore up to Kalyani," said Metro Rail spokesman Protyush Ghosh, adding, "Surveys are on for extensions to Diamond Harbour from Joka and from Howrah to Singur via Serampore. On the cards are two more : Howrah to Dhulagarh and Kabi Subhas to Baruipur. Metro is indeed the most happening activity in Bengal." Quick Links The extended Metro routes will practically link Barrackpore in the extreme north of Kolkata with New Garia in south and Joka in south-western fringes with Barasat via airport in the north-eastern corner. The Rs 4,874-crore East-W est corridor interlinks between these stretches, thereby allowing the commuter criss-cross the whole of the city. Of the extensions, the one between Joka and BBD Bag has been the fastest. It's anybody's guess that the election candidatures of two Trinamool heavyweights Partha Chatterjee and Sovan Chatterjee would have something to do with this very impressive track record . Around 85 % of the piling along this 16 .72 km route, which started two years ago, has been done (till Taratala ). "Construction from Joka till Majherhat is expected to be completed by 2014-end. Some crucial issues in the route have been ironed out. There will be eight elevated stations till Mominpore and five underground Kidderpore onwards . The survey report of the underground stretch on the defence land through which the metro will pass, has been submitted. Once the final nod comes from the defence ministry , work for the underground stretch will also begin," said Ghosh. In the pipeline is a fifth extension (2 km ) between Tollygunge and Joka (till Diamond Park ) that was sanctioned in this year's budget. Among the sanctioned stretches , work for the 5.2 km Dum Dum-D akshineswar route is on in full swing . The tracks will be extended by another 14.8km to Barrackpore once some utility removal hurdles are crossed . Construction of another 18 .5km from Noapara to Barasat via the airport has also started from both ends . Construction of the hub station (Noapara ) is likely to begin by the year-end . The extension between New Garia and the airport (32 km ) via EM Bypass and Rajarhat-New Town was inaugurated by Mamata Banerjee as the then railway minister on February 7, 2011. Tenders have been allotted for 25km , till City Centre-II . The dispute on whether the airport station should be underground has since been sorted out. Mamata got the biggest share of accolades by inaugurating the last 8km extension to New Garia (Kavi Subhas ). There is no denying that the Metro got a fresh lease of life during Mamata's stint as railway minister. "The Metro was neglected for more than 25 years till Mamata-ji took the railway ministry's mantle. She has been granting project after project," a senior Metro official said. Some say Kolkata Metro's leap has been slow compared to the Delhi Metro, which started as late as 2002 but has expanded exponentially. The Metro also faces the wrath of its once devoted passengers when schedules go haywire. But it must be acknowledged that the passenger density of the Kolkata Metro is 6 lakh for 25km . This huge load is its biggest adversary and its greatest challenge. The Delhi Metro, in comparison , has a network of 184 km , covers 135 stations , but carries only about 20 lakh commuters a day. Our good ol' Metro, with a base fare of Rs 4, is still our neighbour's envy and perhaps Kolkata's only hope for the future.