Kolkata Metro to Skip Constructing Important Station on EW Line

The Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation is about to commit the biggest crime in the city’s mass transit history and there hasn’t been a single voice condemning this move, perhaps because people just aren’t aware of what’s transpiring behind the scenes. Needless to say, I’m not too pleased.

A recent article in the TOI highlights that demolition work has started at Raja Subodh Mullick Square (previously known as Wellington Square) to make way for “ventilation and emergency evacuation shafts” for the 16.34 km Howrah Maidan – Salt Lake Sector V Metro line’s tunnels. Besides 3 Kolkata Municipal Corporation buildings, a century-old boxing club are slated for demolition.

Now for those unaware, ever since the line’s underground section got realigned in 2015 to connect to Esplanade instead of Central station, a crucial underground metro station serving the surrounding historic neighborhoods of Bowbazar and Taltala was planned to be built here. However, since several more adjacent buildings would have had to be acquired through a long, drawn-out process, the KMRC recently dropped the idea of constructing the station all together in a scramble to meet the new June 2018 deadline – a criminal move.

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Purple Star – Location of Raja Subodh Mullick Square – view recent satellite imagery

There are various differing opinions by mass transit designers (like this and this) on ideal station/stop spacing, but all would agree that 2.3 kilometers, the distance between the adjacent Esplanade & Sealdah stations, smack in the heart of a dense city would create a massive coverage gap and rob the neighborhood of not just an important station and greater accessibility, but the opportunity for its residents to be connected to the expanding metro network.

Such a miserable short-sighted decision by the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation shouldn’t come as a surprise though. Things in the city have always been slow, but things considerably slowed down further between 2012-2016 during which the acrimonious Ministry of Railways took control and picked up a 74% stake in the organization to resolve issues at Howrah and Sealdah railway stations. Since then, the KMRC’s MD and officials have been slow to take important decisions, approve plans, disburse payments, look for alternatives and liaise with contractors to keep them in check, even on the elevated section where there aren’t any major issues barring the now-resolved Duttabad stretch.

A similar situation arose in Delhi in 2013 where ‘experts’ suggested the DMRC’s MD to drop the 59.6 km Pink Line’s Ashram station. Instead of doing that and creating a large network gap, the MD had the entire station redesigned to fit within the confines of the available land. Tunneling to and from that station just got completed on this past Monday and will be ready for commercial operations in 2018.

For you readers in Delhi reading this, imagine if there wasn’t a metro station at Chandni Chowk or Khan Market. For those in Bangalore, imagine if there wasn’t a MG Road station or for those in Mumbai, imagine if there wasn’t an Andheri station. After reading this post, you can choose to move on with life or you can choose to take a stand and share this post on social media to raise this issue with netas and metro officials.

For more updates, check out the Kolkata section of The Metro Rail Guy!

– TMRG

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Global traveler who prefers mass rapid transit

12 Responses to "Kolkata Metro to Skip Constructing Important Station on EW Line"

  1. Prithviraj Nag says:

    Your view is not wrong, but let me give a counter-view as well:

    1) Originally the alignment was supposed to be BBD Bagh -> Central -> Sealdah, but now it is BBD Bagh -> Esplanade -> Sealdah. So the number of stations actually remain the same.

    2) More importantly, Esplanade is getting a 3-line interchange which would be much more beneficial than if there were 2 separate interchanges at Central and Esplanade covering the 3 lines in question.

    3) An additional station would have bumped up the cost by a huge margin. There has already been cost escalation due to the realignment. Further escalation may jeopardize the project itself.

    4) Kolkata is an extremely densely packed city, particularly in the old part. So land is a massive challenge for any infra project. Building demolitions would have certainly been needed for a station. But then the originally planned station at Central had the same issue due to which the realignment was done in the first place. So it would have been back to square one!

    I always had the feeling that they will skip the station because on Google Maps satellite view I could never find a large enough open spot for a station at such a densely packed area in the heart of the city.

    Reply
    • TMRG says:

      Thanks for your views. Here are my thoughts:

      1) This shouldn’t be about maintaining the number of stations. It should rather be about building ‘right’ and spacing stations in such a way so that all important neighborhoods (catchment areas) along the alignment get connected. You only get one shot.

      2) Esplanade’s new design will help users to easily interchange, but it doesn’t quite address the gap being created to its east. This will only exacerbate the last mile connectivity issue.

      3) I understand this decision is influenced by finances as well and that’s something that governs all projects. However, at what threshold do you give up on basic mass transit principles and worry about cost?

      4) Station boxes require about 280m x 30m of space. The square itself or even the fringe areas of the square along with Lenin Sarani abutting the square can provide for a bulk of that. The rest of it could have come through land acquisition if they seriously tried pursuing it.

      Probably a good idea to compare the city’s metro development with Mumbai. Over there, the MMRCL is going to construct 3 new stations (Girgaum, Kalbadevi, Grant Road) in a similar dense setup. Land acquisition for those station sites started in 2014 and and its success has been well documented on their social media pages.

      Reply
      • Prithviraj Nag says:

        If you look at the satellite view of the region, you’ll see there is not a bit of open space that is comparable in size to the amount of land that is generally baricaded for other underground stations. If KMRCL could convince the govt to move people and demolish buildings, then why do the realignment in the first place! And blocking Wellington square would be impossible because Kolkata Police would never allow that, it would be a traffic nightmare with ripple effects across the city.

        If you ever visit the city you’ll realize how horribly congested these old city areas are! 🙂 (I have been to Mumbai only once for a single day, so I don’t know how comparable it is to Mumbai).

        In any case, all is not lost. There is a tram line running between Esplanade and Sealdah over Lenin Sarani. If at any point in the future the state govt. decides to overhaul and modernize the thoroughly dilapidated tram system, it can provide last-mile connectivity to the region.

        Reply
        • TMRG says:

          I see what you’re getting at, but keep in mind that no two sites are alike. If something couldn’t be achieved at Central, then that doesn’t mean it won’t be achieved at this square either. It just doesn’t look like they seriously pursued land acquisition here or explored alternate designs.

          Metro construction always leads to barricading/blocking popular throughfares in cities where land is not easily available, but that’s always a temporary pain. Think about the socio-economic benefits & increased accessibility such facilities bring over the course of time. A good example would be Chawri Bazaar in Old Delhi.

          We can agree to disagree on this matter. Ultimately, the city is going to lose out in this rush to meet the deadline. The tram service is nice, but at large distances like this, I would have preferred a metro station.

          Reply
  2. arka says:

    biggest hurdle is mamata banerjee

    Reply
    • shubangi says:

      yes absolutely, she is showing her true colors along with Kejri by opposing the government’s crackdown on black money!! Only people with black money oppose this move so intensely, rest of them grumble but bear with temporary hardship.

      Reply
  3. ritzroy says:

    Good

    Reply
  4. Sankardev says:

    The last mile connectivity is never a problem in Kolkata. There are share Autos everywhere with fare of 6rs per head which none of the other metros have. Decisions are influenced by infrastructure , space, cost and jurisdiction. There are general solutions and there are specific solutions. The complete solutions of the last mile connectivity may also be a underground tunnel with walkalators between the two stations. Don’t think ‘Criminal’ is the right word coined. Since you mention comparison with MMRCL, I hope the author knows that the land for Depot has not yet been acquired, in Mumbai Line 3.

    Reply
  5. Aditya says:

    This decision may cause inconvenience to people but it should not be called a “Criminal” move. That is a bit harsh. Even if DMRC had not constructed the Chandni Chowk station, we cant say that they have commited a crime.

    Reply
  6. Anuj Budhkar says:

    u cannot compare this cancelled station with CC or andheri or Majestic… maybe with Khar road or chawri bazar or some other intermediate stations. Only the neighbourhoods would be robbed but the major purpose of EW metro is howrah sealdah saltlake connection which will not be affected. Esplanade is the major station here.

    Reply
  7. OLD KOLKATA LOVER FOREVER says:

    for those slapping mamamta imagine if ur home in a buzy importatnt market zone worth 30000-40000sq ft gets demolished for a metro route n u are given land 2okm away from whr u live! now business minded communal bjp would u lik eto get robbed of 40000sq ft worth land space?

    Reply
  8. OLD KOLKATA LOVER FOREVER says:

    thrs no need of station at lelnin sarani wellington crossing! chandni metro is 1.5km from thr n 2km away is central metro station on north south route! tram and buses happily connect esplande metro 1.5km away from tht intessection whr the station is being skipped!

    Reply

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