The Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation

The existing Metro and Circular railways may soon come under the fold of the Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation (KMRC), entrusted with building and operating the East-West Metro corridor. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has already given his consent, and only the modalities need to be worked out.The Railway Board was contemplating this for quite some time now. “The chief minister was actually happy with the proposal. The modalities will now have to be worked out. Once it happens, the entire railway network within the city of Kolkata will come under a single nodal body. This will certainly improve coordination,” a senior railway officer said. A few years ago, the central government had decided that all urban transport projects (including Metro Railway) would be taken up by the state governments in consultation with the Union ministry of urban development as the nodal authority. The cost sharing for urban railway projects would be divided between the state governments and the nodal ministry. This effectively meant that the ministry of railways would have nothing to do with urban railway projects, save providing advisory services.The Delhi Metro Railway Corporation was set up on these lines. The West Bengal government was also contemplating a metro railway corridor running east to west. After the ministry of railways refused to play any part in the project, KMRC was set up as a joint venture company of the Centre and the state government. It was authorized suitable capital with the two promoters taking equity shares as envisaged in the financing pattern. The KMRC board has 10 directors — five nominated by each promoter. The secretary, Union ministry of urban development, is the chairman while the state transport secretary (now Sumantra Chowdhury) is the managing director. The Eastern Railway general manager is one of the directors.This will be the first time that units (Metro Railway enjoys the status of a zone) under the ministry of railways will be taken over by an entity that has nothing to do with the railways. As a result, a number of issues will have to be worked out.“It is yet to be seen whether only the management will shift to KMRC, leaving operations to people deputed by the railways. The corporation may even employ its own operating staff and leave only maintenance of assets, like the tracks, to the railways. What’s certain is that the entire transport system of Kolkata will get much more streamlined,” the officer added. It will be slightly easier to take over Metro Railway, which is a separate entity by itself. The Circular Railway though, shares Eastern Railway assets like stations and signals, thereby making matters complicated. Officers believe that commuters will benefit once KMRC takes over the city’s railway networks. Though Metro fares are expected to rise to a certain extent (to maintain parity with the east-west corridor), services are expected to improve. There will be better co-ordination between state-run transport agencies like WBSTC, CSTC and CTC, allowing better facilities for commuters at stations. The changeover for commuters will also be easier at the Central station, where the north-south and east-west corridors are to meet. Commuters may then use both services with a single smart card.

The East-West Corridor: Six years from now, when the East-West Metro starts rolling, the fares will still be relatively cheap, at Rs 8 for the first two km — which is the current rate for the Delhi Metro — and services will run till midnight in tune with Kolkata’s changing character as a city that works and parties at night, too.The Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC) plans to run four-car trains at three-minute intervals (during peak hours) between Howrah station and Salt Lake Sector V.Unlike the existing north-south corridor, the east-west one will operate for 19 hours a day, between 5 am and midnight. The fare will go up by 12% every two years. “Initially, we will start with four-car rakes. Depending on demand, we may run six-rake trains from 2021 at 2.5 minute intervals. The capacity will then jump from 1,066 passengers per train to 1,544. We will start with 64 coaches but when six-car rakes are used, we shall need 76 coaches,” an official said. According to KMRC’s estimates for the transport demand in 2015, nearly 5.34 lakh passengers will use the 25-km north-south Metro, while the east-west corridor will carry 4.77 lakh passengers. By 2021, these figures will go up to 5.60 lakh and 5.40 lakh. “We have selected the medium capacity metro system as passenger density is not expected to exceed 50,000 per hour in the years to come. For 2014 and 2021, we have calculated the commuter count at 22,770 and 25,201,” an engineer said.Signalling and telecommunications in the EW line will be state-of-the-art, through a network of fibre-optics cables, sources say. The project proposes to use computer-based interlocking for signalling and the automatic train protection system. The system will incorporate contact-less smart cards for multiple journeys and magnetic tickets for single ones. The tunnel will be 5.2 metres wide (similar to the existing Metro) but the coaches will be wider — 2.88 m against 2.74 m. It will use standard gauge and not broad gauge like other railway networks in the country. “There will be no possibility of an interchange at the Central station because the east-west corridor will be technologically much more advanced,” said an engineer.The state government has located 40 acres at Salt Lake Central Park for an eco-friendly depot, which will have test track, washing plant and other facilities. Power supply to the corridor will be from two substations at Bengal Chemicals and Strand Road. The EW Metro will burn 65 million units of power a year, which will be supplied by the state government on a no-profit-no-loss basis at Rs 3.25 per unit. The east-west corridor will employ around 750 officers and staff.

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