Union minister Smriti Irani inaugurated the Sealdah station of East-West Metro from Howrah Maidan. Once the section is thrown open to public on Thursday, the 21-minute ride from Salt Lake’s Sector V to Sealdah for just Rs 20 promises to change the commuting habits of Kolkatans.
All this time, the corridor was regarded as a ‘toy train’ service. Only 3,000-odd people would take the daily ‘joy ride’ from Salt Lake’s Sector V to Phoolbagan. The lack of riders had forced the authorities to reduce services to five days, with only 48 daily runs. But on Monday, the city’s Green Line entered the heart of Kolkata, into the swanky and sprawling Metro station 17m below Sealdah railway station. “Sealdah is Asia’s busiest railway station. I am thankful that the ministry of urban development could add the crucial 2.3km from Phoolbagan to Sealdah at a cost of Rs 1,250 crore so that the Metro is accessible to 35,000 commuters,” the minister said.
“I am so happy that the train from Sealdah is going to my grandfather’s house in Salt Lake,” Irani said, shortly after she had flagged off Sealdah Metro at 5.54pm from the dais at East-West Metro’s Howrah Maidan terminal.
Dipak Kumar, the same motorman who had driven East-West Metro’s inaugural train from Sector V station on February 13, 2020, was in the driver’s seat of the rake. Ever since the first test train arrived in Sealdah a year ago on July 31, 2021, several trials have been held. But the authorities were not taking chances considering that trains will only run through the east-bound tunnel.
Arghya Kar, manager of BEML, the manufacturers of East-West Metro rakes, and Ashish Ranjan, signalling engineer of KMRC, were assigned to be with Kumar as he steered the inaugural run. The west-bound tunnel is incomplete. The station and the project have landed in this unique situation because of the tunnelling fiasco at Bowbazar on August 31, 2019. Chundi, the borer digging the west-bound tunnel had hit an aquifer and buildings collapsed due to large-scale subsidence. Sibling TBM Urvi, which built the east-bound tunnel till Sealdah, had to make a U-turn to finish the remaining 800m of the west-bound tunnel.
Officials of Metro Railway, which is in charge of the city’s rapid transit network, said at least 5,000 daily passengers will be added to East-West Metro. In normal times, eight to 10 lakh commuters use Sealdah railway station. To accommodate the high footfall, Sealdah is the only among the eight (operational) stations to boast a double-discharge platform. For now, only platforms 1A and 1B will be in use. When the west-bound tunnel is complete and the entire East-West Metro corridor opens up, Sealdah will be one of the high-footfall stations of the corridor.
The sprawling station has been designed in such a way that during busy hours, 17,000 can enter and 22,000 leave at a time and 40,000 commuters can be accommodated during peak hours. The station has seamless interchange facility for people to avail of local train services of Eastern Railway.