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Hoorah for Howrah: First ever underwater train railway set to connect Howrah and Kolkata


June, 2017

A. Solomon

Ed. M. DeHart

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Kolkata, the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal, is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India. In 2011, the population of the city and its suburbs was 14.1 million, making it the third-most populous metropolitan area and the third largest economy in India. This boomtown is suffering from what most rapidly developing economies face — traffic.

This modern city is taking a novel approach toward stemming the chaotic flow of its congested roads. In the first underwater transportation project India has ever seen, two tunneling projects are underway underneath the Hooghly River to create the East Metro, connecting the twin cities of Howrah and Kolkata. Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation Ltd and Afcons Transtonnelstroy have taken the lead on the $750 million (Rs 5,000 crores) project, which is stated to include a total of 12 stations, 6 of which will be underground. In a historic move, two German giant tunnel boring machines, nicknamed Rachina and Prerna, have been brought in to dig these tunnels., marking the first time any western tunneling technology has ever been used in eastern India. 

The project, a 16.6 km East Metro route, consists of 10.8 km underground road, combined with, 520 meters under the river and the remaining 5.8 km on an elevated corridor. Originally planned to be completed by 2012, construction suffered from a number of delays but is now ahead of the revised schedule.

The project has faced several challenges along the way.

Issues plagued the project from the start, beginning with land acquisition and moving to soft soil, slum relocation, and route alignment to heritage buildings. The heritage buildings hold significant historical context, therefore requiring the permission of the Archeological Survey of India before boring beneath them was permitted.

Construction and the boring of the two tunnels under the Hooghly River, the most crucial task of the entire project, began April last year. Two-hundred and fifty engineers, technicians, and workers have pushed the project 50 days ahead of its scheduled July completion.

Water tightness is listed as a premier focus, as engineers ensure the tunnel is being constructed with 120 years of service in mind. Satish Kumar, managing director of Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation Ltd., stated, has said “We cannot afford any water leakage during service.” The heads of the project have also resourced materials to help the tunnels to
withstand the zone 3 earthquakes Kolkata is prone to experience.

With their populations combined, the two cities approach 17 million people. The East Metro is expected to benefit connecting the people of Howrah and Kolkata, and will hopefully ease above-ground traffic in one of the fastest growing urban areas in India.

The project is currently slated to be completed by December 2019.

  1. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/soon-underwater-tunnels-will-connect-howrah-kolkata/article18192320.ece
  2. http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/indias-first-underwater-metro-ride-in-kolkata-could-be-2-years-away-1706949
  3. http://www.hindustantimes.com/kolkata/india-s-first-underwater-rail-tunnel-completed-ahead-of-schedule/story-6O8nP6BJc7u2kKrdP5CzzJ.html
  4. http://www.livemint.com/Politics/G4Nj4ngvlR97LeutqqWCfK/Indias-first-underwater-tunnel-for-HowrahKolkata-Metro-to.html
  5. http://topyaps.com/underwater-rail-tunnel-completedhttps://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/oct/10/how-can-kolkatas-chaotic-transport-system-be-untangled
  6. Header photo- Author: Bernard Gagnon via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Howrah_Railway_Station_01.jpg


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