Kolkata Metro: India’s First Underwater Metro Nears Operation

An essential component of Kolkata Metro’s East-West line, India’s first underwater metro network is nearing completion thanks to the tremendous progress being made by the Indian Railways. The stations along this underwater corridor, which runs from Howrah Maidan to Esplanade, are almost ready for opening.

The Railway Board’s Chairperson and CEO, Jaya Varma Sinha, recently inspected and assessed the East-West Metro’s Howrah Maidan to Esplanade length.

Sinha, accompanied by P Uday Kumar Reddy, General Manager of Metro Railway. And high-ranking officials from Metro and Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (KMRCL). To ride the metro under the Hooghly River to evaluate the infrastructure’s preparedness. During his inspection, Sinha examined passenger transfer points between Metro Railway, Eastern Railway, and South Eastern Railway while riding in the motorman’s cabin from Howrah Maidan to Howrah Station.

After the inspection, she indeed gave authorities instructions to work together to make it easier for passengers to transfer between the three trains. The public is expected to be able to use the 4.8-kilometer East-West Metro length from Howrah Maidan to Esplanade next month, which would supplement the corridor’s currently functioning Sealdah to Salt Lake Sector V segment.

Howrah Maidan, Howrah Station Complex, and BBD Bagh (Mahakaran) are the three additional stations that will be added to the network after the entire corridor has been fully operationalized. It is however noteworthy that the Howrah metro station has the potential to become India’s deepest metro station.

The First Underwater Metro Service in India

Kolkata Metro: India's First Underwater Metro Nears Operation

Kolkata’s East-West Corridor Project includes the country’s first underwater metro service. Sector V will be connected to the Howrah Maidan across the Hooghly River by the East-West Metro Project. For Rs 8,600 crore, it is being constructed. The centerpiece of the project is however 10.8 km long underwater segment that includes a 520-meter underwater tunnel. The Eurostar, which links London and Paris, has been likened to the underwater metro train.

Through the water, the commuters will travel swiftly, covering around 500 meters in less than a minute. Trains from Howrah Maidan to Esplanade will take six minutes to pass through the river tunnels at 80 mph when fully operational.

The Hooghly River tunnel project was successfully completed in 2017 by Afcons, a construction company. The underwater segment will be composed of two concrete rings, each measuring 1.4 meters in width. Hydrophilic gaskets are included in the tunnels to further stop water intrusion. Prominent design companies that worked on the project were Atkins, Systra, and Tunnel Consult.

Herrenknecht tunnel boring machines (TBMs) were ordered. The TBM would act like a submarine and shut down in the case of even a minor water infiltration. British safety rules were followed. At the bottom of the tunnel, trains will indeed run 26 meters below the earth or 36 meters below the water’s surface.

Project Delays of Kolkata Underwater Metro

Kolkata Metro: India's First Underwater Metro Nears Operation

The project was scheduled to be completed in October 2014, with the foundation stone being laid in February 2009. The project was put on hold from 2012 to 2015 due to realignment. A congested geography combined with weak geology presented several challenges for the East-West Metro Corridor.

Aquifer damage from a tunnel boring machine on August 31, 2019. Resulted in significant ground subsidence and the collapse of many surrounding houses. The project’s original completion date of December 2021 has been postponed. Due to incidents that happened at Bowbazar in downtown Kolkata during the digging process. There, in May, almost three years after something similar indeed happened, several homes developed cracks as subterranean construction was underway.

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