The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) would soon invite tenders to widen and improve a few city roads, as a prelude to beginning work on the Kochi metro-rail project.
The two roads that would be widened into four lane are the Banerjee Road and the approach road to the Ernakulam Junction railway station. It would also build an overbridge near the KSRTC bus stand, linking Mullassery Canal with the Salim Rajan Road. The State Government would have to expedite land acquisition for the three projects that are aimed at ensuring smooth flow of traffic when work on the metro-rail project is on.
Apart from the three works, the State Government had permitted the DMRC to widen the North overbridge into a four-lane one, with minimal land acquisition. It had also requested the agency to carry out improvements on the MG Road so that optimal use can be made of the available space. “The footpaths would have to be re-built on the same level and parking would have to be restricted. We have handed over to the State Government the details of land that has to be acquired for widening narrow roads and bridges. The PWD would have to widen the Vytilla-Pettah road, so that the metro-rail line can be laid through the presently-narrow corridor,” said a senior Government official.
The Union Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy had reaffirmed on Tuesday that the Kochi metro-rail project is still under active consideration of the Union Finance Ministry. Apart from road/bridge widening works, relocation of public utilities like lamp posts, pipelines and cables too have become stalled because of the delay in getting Central sanction.
The Union Finance Ministry was opposed to the State Government's decision to execute the scheme as a joint-venture project between the Centre and State, without private partnership.
Funds worth Rs. 20 crores earmarked in the 2009-'10 State budget had lapsed because of the Ministry's opposition. “Any further delay would result in the Rs. 5 crores set apart for the project and the Rs. 55 crores allotted in the State budget this year to execute allied works, too lapsing. Finance Minister Thomas Isaac had even promised to allot more funds for the project if the Centre gave the formal nod,” the official said.
Sources said that the Finance Ministry has not objected to the project as a whole. It expressed some reservations on a few financial aspects. The other stakeholders – the State Government, the Union Urban Development Ministry, Planning Commission and the DMRC are for the joint venture project. As things stand, only the Cabinet Committee for Economic Affairs headed by the Prime Minister can overrule the Ministry's objection.
Considering the fate of the Hyderabad metro and that of a phase of the Mumbai metro where private firms were involved, private partners would have to be given vast tracks of Government land to raise capital for the metro project. The State Government is awaiting the Centre's nod to announce a fast-track scheme to acquire around 65 acres of land for the project and to chart out a rehabilitation package for those who surrender land.