METRO RAILWAY, KOLKATA, THE CONFLUENCE OF CULTURE, TECHNOLOGY AND ECO-FRIENDLINESS
Kolkata is popularly known as the “City of Joy” as well as the Cultural Capital of the Country. The City of Kolkata made its debut in 1690 as an amalgamation of three humble villages – Sutanuti, Gobindapur and Kalikata. But, it has since grown into a sprawling Metropolis and the principal centre for trade and commerce in Eastern Indiaover the last three centuries and it was also the Capital of the Country for a considerable period. In the course of its long existence, this premier ‘City’, often described as the cultural citadel of India, has witnessed many upheavals – Cultural, Social and Political. It has also been faced with innumerable problems, of which the transport problem, in particular, has been very acute. This has happened due to a continuous shift towards urbanization and the consequent increase in population – Resident as well as Migrant. Metro Railway, Kolkata feels honored and pride of itself for becoming the “Life Line” in the field of transport network of this great ‘City’.
It is also the gateway of the North–East. In course of Business, the British East India Company anchored to Kolkata in 1690 and since then, this ‘City’started growing rapidly. Kolkata was one of the important Cities, where the freedom movement was conceived against the British Ruler. It was the place of large numbers of freedom fighters like Aurobindo Ghosh, Khudiram Bose, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Desbandhu Chittaranjan Das, Binoy– Badal–Dinesh and so on.
It was the ‘City’ of cultural and literary activities of ‘The First Nobel Laureate and the Great Poet of the country Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. In 19thcentury Bengal’s renaissance was originated in Kolkata and the light of the renaissance created a tremendous impact through-out the Country in the field of awakening the society in uplifting the status of women and spread of education. It was also the working field of great Social Reformers like Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansha Dev, Swami Vivekananda, Sister Nivedita, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, Rammohan Roy, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, Kesab Chandra Sen and many other great persons. This is also place of work of great scientists like, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose, Dr. Meghnad Saha, Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy. Kolkata is the working place of Mother Teresa, the Noble Laureate, who had also selected this ‘City‘ to dedicate herself for the service to the mankind. It is also the working place of Oscar Winner, Film Director Satyajit Ray. In short, Soil of Kolkata is blessed by the foot steps of such great persons.
The Great Social Reformers
The burgeoning transport problem of Kolkata drew the attention of the city planners, the State Government and also the Government of India. It was soon realised that something had to be done and done fast to cope up with the situation. It was Dr. B.C. Roy, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, who for the first time conceived the idea in 1949 of building an Underground Railway for Kolkata to solve the problems to some extent.
A survey was done by a team of French experts but nothing concrete came out. Efforts made to solve the problem by augmenting the existing fleet of public transport vehicles barely touched the fringe of the problem as the roads account for only 4.2% of the surface area in Calcutta as compared to 25% in Delhi and even 30% in other cities. With a view to finding out an alternative solution to alleviate the suffering of the Kolkatans, the Metropolitan Transport Project (Rlys) was set up in 1969. After detailed studies, the MTP (Rlys) came to the conclusion that there was no other alternative but to construct a Mass Rapid Transit System. The MTP (Rlys) had prepared a Master Plan in 1971 envisaging construction of five rapid transit lines for the city of Kolkata , totalling to a route length of 97.5km. Of these, the highest priority was given to the busy North-South axis between Dum Dum and Tollygunge over a length of 16.45 km and the work on this project was sanctioned on 1.6.72. The foundation stone of the project was laid by Smt. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, on December 29, 1972 and the construction work started in 1973-74.
Since the commencement of construction, the project had to contend with several problems such as non-availability of sufficient funds till 1977-78, shifting of underground utilities, court injunctions, irregular supply of vital materials and others. But overcoming innumerable hurdles and crossing all barriers of disbelief, Calcutta Metro, India's first and Asia's fifth, became a reality on OCTOBER 24, 1984 with the commissioning of partial commercial service covering a distance of 3.40 km with five stations between Esplanade and Netaji Bhavan. This was quickly followed by commuter services on another 2.15 km stretch in the north between Dum Dum and Belgachia on NOVERMBER 12, 1984. The commuter service was extended upto Maha Nayak Uttam Kumar on APRIL 29, 1986 covering a further distance of 4.24 km making the service available over an overall distance of 9.79 km and covering 11 stations. However, the services on the north section were suspended w.e.f. 26.10.92 as this isolated small section was not attractive to commuters. After a gap of over eight years, the 1.62 km Belgachia-Shyambazar section, along with Dum Dum -Belgachia stretch, was opened on AUGUST 13,1994. Another 0.71 km stretch from Esplanade to Chandni Chowk was commissioned shortly thereafter, on OCTOBER 2, 1994. The Shyambazar-Shovabazar-Girish Park (1.93 km) and Chandni Chowk-Central (0.60 km) sections were opened on FEBRUARY 19, 1995. Services on the entire stretch of Metro were introduced from September 27, 1995 by bridging the vital gap of 1.80 km in the middle. A dream thus came true. PhaseII a length of 5.834Kms from Maha Nayak Uttam Kumar to Kavi Nazrul station is completed in Aug' 2009.The last leg upto Kavi Subhash a length of 2.851 kms has been opened in October 8, 2010 for commercial operation.
Presently, 274 services are being run on normal weekdays to carry about 5.43 lakhs of passengers on an average per day with peak volume touching 6.90 lakhs on certain days.