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India's first underwater metro nears completion after costs double

Bloomberg|
Last Updated: Jan 29, 2020, 01.17 PM IST
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India's first underwater metro nears completion after costs double
India’s oldest metro, which started in 1984 with a North-South service, was due to expand by 2014 but faced problems including squatters on the planned route.

Highlights

  • The metro line runs partly under the Hooghly river.
  • It is expected to be completed by March 2022, after being delayed several times due to doubled costs.
  • Total project cost rose to about Rs 86 billion for some 17 kilometers from Rs 49 billion for 14 km.
  • The new line is expected to carry about 9 lakh people daily, — roughly 20% of the city’s population — and will take less than a minute to cross a 520-meter underwater tunnel.
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By Pradipta Mukherjee

Kolkata Metro Rail Corp. expects to complete its East-West project, which runs partly under the city’s iconic Hooghly river, by March 2022 after a delay of several years doubled costs.

The authority is awaiting a final installment of Rs 20 crore ($2.8 million) over the next two years from the Indian Railway Board, said Manas Sarkar, managing director at KMRC. A soft loan of Rs 41.6 billion from Japan International Cooperation Agency helps fund 48.5% of the project.

India’s oldest metro, which started in 1984 with a North-South service, was due to expand by 2014 but faced problems including squatters on the planned route. These issues have contributed to the total project cost rising to about Rs 86 billion for some 17 kilometers from Rs 49 billion for 14 km.

“About 40% of total transport demand will be tackled by these two metro services,” Sarkar said in an interview at his office in Kolkata. “It will be a relief for the environmental pollution and the city should be much more decongested.”

The new line is expected to carry about 9 lakh people daily, — roughly 20% of the city’s population — and will take less than a minute to cross a 520-meter underwater tunnel. Depending on the time of day, it takes some 20 minutes to use the ferry and anywhere upward of an hour to cross the Howrah bridge.

KMRC will repay the JICA loan over 30 years after an initial six-year moratorium. The interest rate ranges between 1.2% to 1.6%. The East-West metro project is 74% owned by India’s Railway Ministry and 26% by the nation’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

“We don’t anticipate any further cost escalation now,” Sarkar said.
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