The tortured past of metros in Kolkata

We begin with what appears to be the best map of the existing Kolkata Metro which one can find from regular websites:

http://www.mapsofindia.com/maps/westbengal/kolkata-metro-map.html

Even this has some errors in station names, but at least it shows all the stations existing today and their connections with the regular railway system.

This is the corrected list of stations along with distances:

Kolkata Metro

The rate of progress was painfully slow even by the standards of infrastructure projects in India. This will be apparent from this table:

Extension date Terminals Length
24 October 1984 Esplanade Bhowanipore 3.40 kilometers (2.11 mi)
12 November 1984 Dum Dum Belgachhia 2.15 kilometers (1.34 mi)
29 April 1986 Bhowanipur (now Netaji Bhaban) Tollygunge (now Mahanayak Uttam Kumar) 4.24 kilometers (2.63 mi)
13 August 1994 Belgachhia Shyambazar 1.63 kilometers (1.01 mi)
2 October 1994 Esplanade Chandni Chowk 0.71 kilometers (0.44 mi)
19 February 1995 Shyambazar Girish Park 1.92 kilometers (1.19 mi)
19 February 1995 Chandni Chowk Central 0.60 kilometers (0.37 mi)
27 September 1995 Central Girish Park 1.80 kilometers (1.12 mi)
22 August 2009 Tollygunge (Mahanayak Uttam Kumar) Garia Bazar (now Kavi Nazrul) 5.85 kilometers (3.64 mi)
7 October 2010 Garia Bazar (now Kavi Nazrul) New Garia (now Kavi Subhash) 3.00 kilometers (1.86 mi)
10 July 2013 Dum Dum Noapara 2.09 kilometers (1.30 mi)
Total Noapara New Garia (now Kavi Subhash) 27.39 kilometers (17.02 mi)

Construction started in earnest in 1978 and the short section from Esplanade to Bhowanipore / Netaji Bhawan was opened in 1984. It was another 11 years before the familiar Dum Dum- Tollygunge route was fully opened. Extensions started again in the 2000s and the line extended downwards to Kavi Subhash (New Garia) and upwards to Noapara by 2013.

The line has the usual IR broad gauge and the 750 V third rail system which the suicidal may find convenient, while the Delhi Metro has overhead 25 KV lines (which become overhead third rails in tunnels). One famous victim was former tennis champion Premjit Lal who jumped before a train in 1992 and ended up a cripple who survived another 15 years or so.

Once the route was fully open in 1995, it did make a significant difference to the traffic jams and vehicular pollution on the main north-south axis in Central Kolkata, while not making a difference to the rest of the city. Much later air-conditioned rakes added to passenger comfort.

The Kolkata Metro was recently formally declared the 17th zone of the Indian Railways, while the Konkan Railway remains a corporation which is nominally not under IR but is part of it for operational purposes.

The story of Line 1 is not over yet. Construction of the northward extension to Baranagar and Dakhineswar is in full swing. As for Lines 2 to 6….well, that is another story.

A popular grouse is the mass renaming of stations in the Trinamool era. There had some renamings earlier such as Bhowanipore to Netaji Bhawan. The southward extension from Tollygunge (sorry, Mahanayak Uttam Kumar) had stations with logical names such as Kudghat, Bansdroni etc. which corresponded to the actual names of the localities. Now see what happened in Kolkata Metro . The station now known as Shahid Khudiram was initially planned as Pranab Nagar and became Birji before getting its present name. All the stations south of Tollygunge now have names which have no obvious connection with the names of the localities. That is why announcements and display boards have to clearly specify “Netaji station serving Kudghat”. Locals and visitors alike will get confused with two stations named after Netaji and two more after Rabindranath Tagore.

The terminus of Kavi Subhash is adjacent to the New Garia station on the regular railway. There is a similar arrangement at Dum Dum (which has thankfully not been renamed). A sort of connection exists between Rabindra Sarovar metro station and the obscure station of Tollygunge on the railway, which is a few hundred metres away, though that station is itself not as well connected as the other two.

So much for Line 1. There are now big plans for lines 2 to 6, which deserve a post by themselves.

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Travels through the unseen railways of Kolkata

The Kolkata circular railway is one of the least known suburban rail systems of the country. It has little coverage in timetables and elsewhere. It was hastily patched together from existing suburban lines, disused dock lines and freight lines besides a new link to the airport which is little used. To begin with, here is a 2010 map which may give the general orientation:

Kolkata Rail (ER Suburban)

If you were to start your journey at Ballygunge and proceeded west (anticlockwise), this is what it would look like. Note the comments along each station (including a few PJs and historical notes):

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No Sealdah? There is a reason.

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For variety, you can divert from the “circle” at Dum Dum and travel on the still more obscure line to the airport:

airport line

Here are some pictures along the route, taken on 8 Apr 2015:

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The starting point of Ballygunge. Note the crow perched on the loudspeaker.

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While changing trains at Majerhat.

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Along the Hooghly.

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Further along the Hooghly. Below there are various stations along the way:

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Tala is where many of the rakes for trains from Kolkata Terminus are stabled.

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(This is at Kolkata terminus, where the trip to Bangladesh begins.)

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A few short videos along the way can be seen here: Apart from the trip along the Hooghly we also cover the large rust belt towards the airport.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpnX2Gw1sU-H9aMWhNlnP1rv3wVvKcBCW

Several longer clips of this route by others can be found on Youtube.

Jessore Road has its place in history with this piece of poetry by American poet Allen Ginsberg written during the tragic events of 1971, though I suppose he was referring to a place in Bangladesh rather than this suburb of Kolkata:

http://www.everyday-beat.org/ginsberg/poems/jessore.txt

Hope that has inspired you to travel along the little known byways of your city.