Another terminal

Print edition : December 16, 2005

Kolkata, which has had the disadvantage of the lack of an additional railway station, will soon have one at Chitpur in the centre of the city.

An artist's impression of Chitpur station.-

AFTER more than 100 years of service to the Indian Railways, Howrah and Sealdah stations have reached saturation point, and the need for an additional station for Kolkata is acute. The solution to the problem is the proposed new terminal at Chitpur in central Kolkata. "The Chitpur terminal will not only take considerable load off Howrah and Sealdah but also be convenient for a large section of people in a city that is expanding rapidly," Shyam Kumar, General Manager, Eastern Railway, told Frontline.

Howrah station, which started functioning in 1854, had only two pairs of trains originating from it; it runs 297 pairs of trains now, including express, passenger and suburban local trains. With 21 existing platforms and two more coming up in the next six months, Howrah has reached its capacity. The situation is the same with Sealdah; built in 1869, the station now runs 311 pairs of trains from 17 platforms. Other than to decongest Howrah and Sealdah stations, the objectives of the proposed terminal are to provide additional trains to the city and connections from the city to stations that are not connected directly to it.

The decision to build a terminal at Chitpur came after a lot of deliberation and a process of elimination. Different locations were suggested for the station site. Three years ago, Majerhat was suggested as a possible location. The idea was shelved owing to technical difficulties involving the construction of a bridge over the Hooghly river from Bauria to Budge Budge. Then there was Shalimar, in Howrah district, which was already a goods terminal operating under the South Eastern Railway. In fact, a passenger service on a trial basis was also started from there through two pairs of trains. But the project could not take off owing to certain problems relating to infrastructure and the considerable distance of the terminal from Kolkata proper.

Chitpur was decided upon finally and approved by the Railway Ministry in 2003-04. Certain inherent advantages helped in the selection of this place. Other than being located in the heart of Kolkata, Chitpur has already functioned as an important rail yard for around a century. Moreover, unlike in the case of Majerhat and Shalimar, the huge property in and around the place belongs to the Railways. The proposal has been accepted by the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA), and on May 15, 2003, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee laid the foundation stone for the project.

To build the new passenger terminal, the Eastern Railway closed down Chitpur's Ultadanga Coal Yard and constructed three separate DD (Direct Delivery) lines to facilitate off-load of inward traffic directly to road vehicles. At a total project cost of Rs.90.54 crores, the project is being executed in two phases. Facilities to be provided in the first phase include commissioning of the station building to handle three platforms and 20 pairs of long-distance trains with ancillary activities by the Railways and development of approach roads by the State government. Apart from this, three passenger platforms will be commissioned, as well as three DD lines and one Deep Pit. The first phase of the project is to be completed by early next year. The scheduled date for the completion of the second phase is January 2007.

Says Soumitro Majumdar, Chief Public Relations Officer, Eastern Railway: "Initially five trains will be directed from Howrah and Sealdah to Chitpur to run from two platforms of the new terminal." The final aim is to run 25 pairs of mail and express trains from five platforms in the next few years. To provide better suburban and urban communication, there are plans to run 20 pairs of EMU (electric multiple unit) trains and 10 pairs of local circular railway trains from the Chitpur terminal. Further, the authorities of Eastern and South Eastern Railways have joined heads to explore the possibility of an alternative route to South India. So far, there are no trains to South India originating from Kolkata proper. (Howrah, on the other side of the Hooghly, is not administratively part of Kolkata.) "With this new terminal coming up, the possibilities of expanding the railways in Kolkata are immense. Where all other major cities, including New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, have more than two stations, Kolkata has for long been lagging behind. The Chitpur terminal will set it right," said Shyam Kumar.

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