Japan has evinced interest in the East-West Metro Corridor project connecting Rajarhat in east Kolkata to Ramrajatala in Howrah to the west, chief minister of West Bengal Buddhadeb Bhattacharya said on Monday.
Speaking at a seminar on 'Accelerating housing and construction industry in West Bengal', organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, he said, "The state government is seriously pursuing the proposal of East West Metro that would pass through two railway stations of Sealdah and Howrah and central business district of BBD Bagh."
Government officials said the ministry of economic trade and industry of Japan had sanctioned the cost of a feasibility report for the project. Marubeni of Japan has been entrusted with the job of carrying out the study.
"If the project is found to be feasible, the government was expecting a loan from the Japan Bank for International Co-operation. Marubeni will start the study in September and report was expected in January 2004," sources added.
Although it was premature to calculate the project cost, the cost estimate of the under-construction Delhi Metro was about Rs 400 crore (Rs 4 billion) per kilometre.
Since this would be an 18 km long project, the cost would be around Rs 7,200 crore (Rs 72 billion) using the same norm. However, the Kolkata project would require a tunnel under the river Hoogly and this would push up the costs.
The funding for the project would be a crucial factor. All concerned ministries of the Union and state governments would have to chip in.
Experts said the ministry of Railways, government of West Bengal and Union ministry of urban development may join in the project along with JBIC. In fact, the urban development ministry has already recommended the project.
JBIC's interest was a fallout of a presentation made by the state government to a Japanese delegation which visited the city in 2002, government sources claimed. The delegation was a part of Japan-India Business Co-operation Committee, supported by ICC and FICCI.
Kolkata has an underground railway connecting Dum Dum in the north and Tollygunge in the south. The stretch was being now extended to Garia. The extension was expected to be completed by 2006-7.
However, the needs for connectivity on the east-west axis has become acute. Kolkata received around 30 lakh (3 million) commuters every day from two rail stations Sealdah and Howrah.
Moreover, the share of road in Kolkata was only 6 per cent, making the underground rail transit system an attractive alternative.
Japan has large exposure in West Bengal and it has funded many infrastructure and power projects in the state.
Notable among them were four flyover projects in Kolkata and the 500MW Bakreshwar thermal power project. The largest private sector investment from a Japanese company in India was also in West Bengal in the form of of Mitsubishi PTA Ltd at Haldia.