For over a month now, work on the Mandi House–ITO section of the Delhi Metro has been stalled due to its close proximity to the Tilak Bridge railway overpass. A Tunnel Boring Machine which was lowered into the corridor has been idling away as the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and the Northern Railway spar over safety permits.

Terming it a “procedural issue”, a senior DMRC official confirmed that a TBM has been stationary for over a month in this particular section of the upcoming Central Secretariat–Kashmere Gate corridor. He said that it was “not a question of the railways not granting permission” but it was a safety matter that needed to be considered.

Another DMRC official also termed it a procedural issue but given the corridor falls below the Tilak Bridge, he said, the Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety (CMRS) has already checked the corridor for any unsafe practices. “The CMRS has already given us the permission to go ahead. A letter in this regard has been forwarded to Northern Railway quite sometime back,” he said.

However, a senior official of Northern Railway said the clearance by the CMRS was only an “in principle” approval and the green signal can be granted only after a ground inspection to check safety issues is carried out.

“It is a huge tunnel going below the railway tracks. We can not take any chances as there are lot of safety issues involved. It is such a busy railway track. Just imagine if something happens. So naturally we will be worried,” said the official.

Rejecting the allegations that the railways was to be blamed for the stoppage of work, the official said: “We understand the importance and gravity of the issue. We are in touch with the officials concerned in the Delhi Metro. It is our top priority to clear the safety issue involved.” However, he did not offer any time frame by which work will be allowed to resume.

The section forms part of the 3.3 km section between Mandi House and Jama Masjid which will be completely underground and will cover three stations at ITO, Delhi Gate and Jama Masjid. Early last year, a Delhi Metro official said that the tunnelling distance for the section is around 2.5 km and will be constructed using a TBM and the contractors have been asked to complete the work in 42 months.

The section has been contracted to the Shanghai Urban Construction Group, which formed a joint venture with Indian conglomerate L&T that has been awarded different projects by the DMRC.

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