With roughly a year left for the first signs of Chennai’s metro rail, the countdown has officially begun.

The focus now, for Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL), is the stretch between Koyambedu and St. Thomas Mount that is part of corridor II of the Rs. 14,600-crore project.

About 50 per cent of track laying has been completed on the stretch. The elevated stretch has eight stations, including Koyambedu and St. Thomas Mount.

The track along this stretch will be over 10 km in length and so far, double-tracks (for the two lines) have been laid for a distance of 4.3 km, according to V. Somasundaram, chief general manager (construction), CMRL.

“The remaining length will be nearly completed in three to four months,” he said.

Simultaneously, pending civil work, including construction of stations and the portion of the corridor over Kathipara junction, will go on and is expected to be completed in six months, the official said.

To date, 75 per cent of the civil works are complete, according to CMRL. Once the track-laying work is completed, signalling work will be taken up. That should take about four months’ time, said officials. If the deadlines are met, CMRL proposes to begin its trial run by July this year.

“We will conduct speed trials for the rolling stock first,” Mr. Somasundaram said. This will be followed by testing, to ensure that all the signals work in a coordinated manner.

Meeting the deadline

According to CMRL, the deadline for the elevated stretch is the first quarter of 2014. Engineers at different Metro sites said a three- to five-month delay could be expected in the project.

A massive project such as this, an engineer said, had to overcome different hurdles at various points. “Right from land acquisition to shortage of river sand for construction, there are a host of issues,” said an engineer working at one of the underground stations along Anna Salai.

However, CMRL maintained it was doing its best. “Our contractors are purchasing river sand at a higher rate so that the shortage — which is putting pressure on the construction industry at large — does not affect work on Metro Rail,” a CMRL official said.

Complex construction

The elevated stretch between Koyambedu and St. Thomas Mount has to accommodate a complex structure over Kathipara junction.

Known as the balanced cantilever, this bridge-like structure will come up at a height of about 25 metres above the road, and connect with the Metro corridor on two sides of the clover leaf-shaped flyover. Work has begun and will be completed in six months, Mr. Somasundaram said.

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