METRO RAILWAY, KOLKATA, THE CONFLUENCE OF TECHNOLOGY, CULTURE 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 India over 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 them, 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 and Binoy– Badal–Dinesh etc.
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 19th century 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
Netaji Subhash Swami VivekanandaRabindranath Tagore Raja Rammohon RoyAroubinda GhoshIswar Chandra VidyasagarKavi Nazrul Islam
With only 8% of the land being available for road transport, there was little scope for augmenting the existing road area in this overcrowded City . The transport problem of Kolkata drew the attention of the City planners, the State Government and also the Govt. of India and it was rapidly concluded that the only way to solve the problem, if partially, was to opt for an underground Railway. It was Dr. B.C. Roy, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, who, as early as in 1949, conceived the idea of building an underground Railway. Accordingly, the Metropolitan Transport Project (Rlys.) was set up in 1969 with a view to alleviate the transport problem of Kolkata.
The MTP (Rlys) then prepared a master plan in 1971 for construction of a Mass Rapid Transit System, envisaging construction of five Rapid transit lines for the City covering a route length of 97.5 km. 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 01.06.1972. Smt. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India had laid the foundation stone of Metro Railway in Kolkata on 29th December, 1972. The construction work commenced in 1973–74.
Construction Method: –
Two methods viz Cut & Cover and Driven Shield Tunneling –have been adopted for the construction of Kolkata Metro. The first method was used in the construction of major portion of the alignment and the second method was adopted for construction of about one km long tunnel on either side of Chitpur Railway Yard between Belgachhia and Shyambazar Five Point Crossing.
Kolkata Metro, India’s first Metro, became a reality on October 24, 1984 with the commissioning of commercial services from Esplanade to Bhowanipur (now Netaji Bhavan), a distance of 3.40 km. Other stations were opened at different stages thereafter and services between Dum Dum and Tollygunge were introduced on September 27, 1995. There are 16 stations in this section.
Meanwhile, Kolkata continued to grow and realizing the increased transportation needs of the people of Kolkata, it was decided to extend Metro services from Tollygunge (now Mahanayak Uttam Kumar) to New Garia (now Kavi Subhas), a stretch of 8. 66 km with six stations. This project was sanctioned in 1999-2000, with the major part of the Railway track on this section being constructed on an elevated structure. Sri Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister of India laid foundation stone for the extension of Metro Railway in Tollygunge – Garia section on 20.05.99.
Sri Gopal Krishna Gandhi, Governor, West Bengal, Sri Pranab Mukherjee, Union Finance Minister and Mamata Banerjee, Minister for Railways in inauguration function of Metro Railway services from Mahanayak Uttamkumar to Kavi Nazrul on 22.08.2009
The alignment runs along Tolly’s Nullah covering six stations. Commercial services from Mahanayak Uttam Kumar to Kavi Nazrul (5.89 km.) and from Kavi Nazrul to Kavi Subhas, the terminating station of this section, were inaugurated on 22.08.2009 and 07.10.2010 respectively by Mamata Banerjee, Hon’ble Minister for Railways.
This extension has brought the South 24 Parganas District closer to Kolkata’s business centre and substantially reduced pressure on other modes of transport. It has also provided a safe, convenient, comfortable, eco–friendly and economical transport option to the people of Kolkata. In Dum Dum – Tollygunge section Metro trains run in the Tunnel where air temperature is controlled through air ventilation system, but, with the extension of services beyond Mahanayak Uttam Kumar where Metro runs on elevated track, it was felt the need to have air-conditioned rakes for providing comfort to the commuters. Accordingly, two AC rakes were put into service since October, 2010.
Kavi Subhas Station A view of illuminated Mahanayak Uttamkumar station
Kolkata Metro has been serving the people of Kolkata for the last 26 years and has become an integral part of the transport network of the City. The current year has been proved to be very eventful for Metro Railway. For the first time since its inception, large-scale expansion projects have been sanctioned by the Ministry of Railways.
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 Bhowanipur. 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 Tollygunge 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.