The development follows clearance from first the defence ministry for tunnelling work under the Maidan and then Victoria Memorial Hall authorities for the Victoria Memorial station. The latter had given its nod in May.
RVNL last week floated tenders for Rs 2,571.3 crore for the 5km underground section of the 14.2-km Joka-Esplanade line. The lowest bidder will be entrusted with the design and construction of the ramp from the elevated Mominpore station and underground railway works along the stretch. The contract will include construction of four underground stations (Kidderpore, Victoria, Park Street and Esplanade), digging of Metro tunnels, architectural finishing work and laying of tracks.
Sources said unlike the overhead section where progress has been slow due to various hurdles en-route, the progress in this final stretch is expected to be a lot faster since there will be no further impediments as the work will be underground.
The tenders must be submitted by October 10 this year. Metro Railway, the umbrella organization of the city’s rapid transit network, has fixed a July 2025 deadline to commission the entire 14.2km Joka-Esplanade corridor. Of this, the 6.5km Joka-Taratala of the elevated section is due to be launched in September this year. The 2.7km Taratala-Mominpore stretch should be operational some time next year. Work along the stretch remained stalled for two years as the Majerhat bridge collapsed. The construction of the Majerhat and Mominpore Metro stations and the viaduct in between is now on a fast-forward mode.
Officials said tenders for the underground section could not be floated all this time because the stretch was stuck in various bureaucratic hurdles. Even as the Metro project, conceived by chief minister Mamata Banerjee when she was railway minister, was approved in 2010, work could only be executed till Mominpore. Clearances were pending with the Army, custodian of the land beyond this point. After PM Narendra Modi’s intervention, the defence ministry had allowed construction below the Maidan in 2015, ending a four-year stalemate. But even after that, the decision on the surface entry and exit points from Victoria Memorial and Park Street stations were taken only in May, 2018. The matter was pending before Calcutta high court (over a writ petition regarding tunnelling through the Maidan), the Army and the VMH. Last December, with Army’s permission, RVNL conducted soil tests along the Maidan stretch.
On February 4 this year, the green light for the project came when the Army informed Calcutta high court that it had no objection to tracks being laid below the Maidan. The court was hearing a PIL regarding restrictions against construction activity within 100m of Victoria Memorial. RVNL prayed to the court that the underground tunnelling and the Metro station would be beyond 200m of Victoria’s boundary and restrictions may be eased in public interest.