Metros in India: The Kolkata Metro

The City

Kolkata is one of the oldest cities in India. It is estimated that the city may have been populated since over 2000 years ago. It is also one of the most populated cities in the nation, being only behind the cities of Mumbai and Delhi. According to estimations of the last Indian censuses, the city has a population of 15,230,000 inhabitants.

Between the decades of the 60s and the 90s, after the city stopped being the capital of India, Kolkata experienced one of its roughest economic times, which resulted in an enormous political instability. As a consequence, people starting moving out of the city and, because of it, important factories closed down.

However, the city managed to rise to become nowadays one most important metropoles in the country for the big economic contributions that it generates. It is located in the eastern region of India, where poverty, businesses, retail stores, and financial institutions prevail. However, this does not mean that the city lacks problems such as pollution or overwhelming levels of overpopulation.

The Metro

During the beginning of the 50s, the idea of building a fast transportation system for the city appeared due to the overpopulation of vehicles, which was unstoppably increasing, and was generating high tension among drivers.

It was not until three decades later that this idea became a reality, after being reconsidered as a new project. However, it first had to go through a series of challenges.

On October 24th, 1984, the Kolkata Metro, currently known as Metro Railway, offers commercial transportation for the first time –also being the first metro in India-, covering a distance of 3.40 km distributed throughout five stations between Esplanade and Bhowanipur.

Currently, around 600,000 passengers use the system each day, who say that this is the cheapest way of moving around to any part of the city. The Kolkata Metro has one operational line and 24 stations. Also, there are five new lines under construction. It is also anticipated the expansion of the current North-South axis (Line 1,) which has been the line with the highest priority of being expanded since it covers the regions between Dum Dum and Kavi Subhas.

Kolkata Metro
Kolkata Metro

Lines and stations

The Kolkata Railway is comprised of six lines, in which only one line is currently operational, while the remaining five are under construction. This operational line was inaugurated on the year 1984, and it is located at the North-South axis of Kolkata, offering service to the regions from Dum Dum to Kavi Subhas. It has a road length of 27.22 km, and 24 operational stations. The ticket price is much cheaper compared to other means of transportation (such as taxis or buses,) and the ride tends to be comfortable and enjoyable.

The Noapara-Kavi Subhash line

The Noapara-Kavi Subhash line (North-South axis) was the first one to be constructed (1984,) and it is the only current line working. It gives service through its 24 stations, 15 of which are underground, while the remaining ones are at surface-level, allowing the passenger to watch the scenery. It has a road length of 27.22 km. The trains of this line are transported on rails that have been built with the help of the widest caliper in the world, or in other words, the caliper currently known as the “Indian Indicator” was used, which is five and a half feet wide.

There is a planned expansion for this line, with three additional stations planned to be built to cover the route from Dakshineswar to Noapara. The period of time in which this expansion is planned to be finished will be of approximately two years (June, 2019.)

East-West Line

The East West Line is the second line for this underground railway system, in which 12 stations are planned (six underground and six at surface-level.) This line is currently under construction. It was planned with the objective of connecting Kolkata with Hworah via an underground path under the Hooghly River, converting the Kolkata Railway in the first underwater metro in India.

The project began to be executed on the year 2009, but has met some challenges that have considerably delayed the process. In the beginning, the construction was being done by an independent company known by the acronym KMRC (Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation.) Then, on 2011, the construction was transferred to the Ministry of Urban Development of Railways and the state government of West Bengal, who took some financing problems.

On June 2016, a readjustment was done to the regions that would be part of the route to increase their road length to 16.55 km. Certainly, the East-West Line will cover the region of Salt Lake by going from Sector 5 (on the east) to Howrah Maidan (on the west.) The construction is being done in two phases, in which it is expected that the former, corresponding to the road between Sector 5 and Sealdah (9 km,) will be operational on June, 2018. Meanwhile, phase II, which corresponds to the remaining road between Sealdah and Howrah Maidan (7 km,) is estimated to be finished by August, 2019.

Joka-Esplanade Line

The Joka-Esplanade route (line 3) will be comprised by 12 stations once it is finished, reaching a road length of 17.75 km from the southernmost end of Kolkata (Joka) to the center of Kolkata (Esplanade.) The construction is being done by the organization associated to the national transportation company of the state, RVNL (Rail Vikas Nigam Limited,) which affirm that the users will be able to enjoy this route by December, 2019. A noteworthy fun fact is that, like all other lines, this one is also a combination of underground and surface-level stations. Another fun fact is that the Esplanade stop, which is proposed for this line, is not the same stop found within Line 1 (North-South.)

Noapara-Barasat Line

The Noapara-Barasat line represents line 4 of the Kolkata Metro. Thanks to RVNL, which was in charge of the construction, the route was inaugurated recently, and it is one of the lines that travels the longest ranges.

Its length is of 18.5 km, reaching from Noapara to Barasat (path in which the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Airport is located,) and it is comprised of 10 stations. Unlike the other stations, line 4 does not have underground stops since it is a road that is entirely elevated. Its most distinguishable fact is that it has a station inside the airport that makes a connection with line 6. There are plans to expand the line beyond the airport, but such proposal has faced some hassles due to territorial problems: the trains would have to transit in the middle of a land that is private property of a certain firm. For this reason, the expansion of this line is still under discussion.

Baranagar-Barrackpore Line

It represents line 5 of the Kolkata Railway, comprised of 11 elevated stations, which are distributed throughout 12.40 km of railway. The route was thought as a means to cover the need to speed up the commute from the northern suburbs to southern Kolkata. However, this same route is being reconsidered, and is currently under research by the experts on the field. The reason for this is that it seems that its construction would generate damages to the water pipes that are located throughout Barrackpore Trunk Road. As a possible solution, the construction company is suggesting to resume the construction of this line via the Kalyani highway.

Kavi Subhash-Jai Hind

The Kavi Subhash-Jai Hind line represents line 6 of the Metro, and wants to become the biggest of them all. Just like the other ones, it is being built by RVNL, having 24 stations, which are mostly elevated (only one is underground, and one is at surface-level,) distributed along 29.1 km of railway. Its construction began during the beginning of February, 2011, with the goal of being finished in approximately six years.

Taxies Calcuta
Taxies Calcuta

This route would represent a link between the region of Kavi Subhas (New Garia) and the airport, in which an underground stop was established. This stop is the terminal stop of this line, since it recently was inaugurated an initial path towards the airport. Thanks to the construction of this line, the users of the southern regions of Kolkata will be able to have an easier time using transportation to the airport in a much shorter period of time.

Important modifications

  • Construction of the Neopara Station: One of the main modifications that have been done to the Kolkata Metro has been the construction of the Neopara station. This station will have four transfer platforms. One of them will even allow passengers to transfer to the Kolkata International Airport at road 4. At the moment, there are only two operational platforms, while the remaining two are under construction.
  • Construction of the “tallest station in the world”: There are plans to expand line 2 so it can also connect with the airport. For this a new station will be constructed at Haldiram’s crossing at the VIP way. This station will have 22 meters of height.

Signaling system of the trains and departure frequency

All of the national Indian railway services work with the same automatic signaling technology, and the Kolkata metro is not the exception.

Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS): This system is also utilized by two big railway networks in the world, located at the United Kingdom and Australia. It was designed to deal with the concern that trains could crash due to human error, or in other words, due to a mistake of a train operator. For instance, if the train passed by a warning sign without authorization, as well as doing it at high speeds, the TPWS would detect the irregularity and would stop the train by initiating an automatic braking of it.

Train description system and automatic train graph: All of the railway system in Kolkata has a train description system and an automatic train graph, which works as a center for the control of operations to supervise and monitor the entire journey of the trains in real time.

Schedules, timetables, and calendar

The Metro Railway begins to give service from 6:45 in the morning to 9:55 at night, with a waiting time between each train of 7 minutes. Meanwhile, during peak hours, due to the big influx of users, a train arrives each five minutes. During Sundays, the metro begins to give service from 9:50 in the morning, and ends its services 12 hours later, ending at 9:50 pm.

Furniture and services at the stations

All of line 1 stations are equipped with air conditioning and water coolers. Likewise, some trains have air conditioning. All of the trains have some special seats that are only for women and senior citizens.

Prices, tickets, and cards

The Kolkata Metro is the cheapest means of transportation in the city. The standard price for a ride is of 4 Indian Rupees (INR,) which is the equivalent of 0.06 American dollars (USD.) Meanwhile, children under four years of age can travel for free.

  • Tokens: Since the inauguration of the Kolkata Metro until the middle of the year 2011, magnetic tickets were being sold. But, from 2011 and onwards, the Metro Railway started using radio-frequency identification tokens (RFID) issued by the Center of Railway Information (CRIS.) Due to the use of this new form of payment, the magnetic band doors that were previously used for the old tickets were replaced by new RFID scanners.
  • Smart card: The Kolkata Metro did not settle with the implementation of the RFID tokens. It also introduced another innovation via a service of smart cards for the users. It is noteworthy that they were also issued by the Center of Railway Information (CRIS,) and were designed with the purpose of letting the users pay and schedule multiple trips. It is the most used payment option by the passengers because of the convenience of not having to wait on long lines each day to acquire a token.

Safety

In regards of safety, the Kolkata Metro is the safest means of transportation in Kolkata. The user’s safety is maintained through the use of closed-circuit television cameras and metal detectors. These cameras are installed in all of the metro’s stations. The cameras are also used to watch if the users are obeying some of the rules within the facilities. For instance, they are used for checking if people are taking pictures of smoking.

Transportation in Kolkata
Transportation in Kolkata

Connection to the airport

Gaining access to the Kolkata International Airport via the railway system is not complicated, since both of them are connected. By boarding the train from the Kavi Subhash-Jai Hind line (line 6 from the metro) in any of the transfer stations at Dum Dum, Majerhat, and Sealdah, the user will be able to go to Biman Bandar station from the Noapara-Barasat line (line 4 from the metro.) This is the terminal station located at the airport, and it is found within the airport building.

Likewise, in case that you are located at the Kolkata Airport and you wish to go towards another destination, you have two options. You could board the train that departs from the airport and head towards the south of the city (line 4.) Or you could find the bus line available outside of the building, and board a bus towards Esplanade, where you will also be able to board a train towards any part of the city.

Trains

Initially, the Kolkata Metro started operations with four trains for the passengers. With the passing of time and the increase in traffic, the number of operational trains were increased by a factor of six. Nowadays, there are 25 trains giving daily service to the users. However, 18 of them will be gradually discarded (as long as they are able to be replaced by new ones) since they have become obsolete. Up until this moment, three types of trains have been utilized for the Kolkata Metro:

BHEL Rake (Model 1000): These were the trains originally used for the system of underground railway that covers the route between Esplanade and Bhowanipur. They were manufactured by the ICF, and they used to be identified by their dark green color and by a yellow stripe on its bottom part. Nowadays, after some other modifications, the users can identify it by its yellow color with a brown stripe on its lower part, and by a numbering system that goes from B1 to B9. They reach a maximum speed of 55 km/h. They do not have air conditioning.

Rake NGEF (Model 2000): Also made by ICF, the rake trains NGEF (Model 2000) were incorporated on the year 1990, when the second phase of the metro was completed and an expansion began. The acceleration of these vehicles is way higher than that of the previous model. However, they are similar since both reach the same maximum speed (55 km/h) and the both lack air conditioning. They were initially yellow with a maroon strip on their lower part. Nowadays, they are white with a blue stripe on their lower part. They are identifiable by the “8N” symbol printed on them.

BHEL / Knorr Bremse AC (Model 3000): This model was manufactured by ICF in collaboration with BHEL, an Indian state firm that is in charge of everything regarding engineering and manufacturing, and with Knorr Bremse, a German company that manufactures brakes. These were the last trains incorporated to the fleet of the Kolkata Metro (2010,) covering the elevated route between Mahanayak Uttam Kumar and Kavi Nazrul. They would later cover the route between Kavi Nazrul and Kavi Subhash. Currently, there are 13 vehicles from the Model 3000 offering service to line 1. They reach a maximum speed of 35 km/h, and they have a more technological advanced design. They have LCD screens inside of the driver’s cabin, and electronic panels with LED illumination and with information in multiple languages that are found both inside and outside of the trains. Another important innovation within this model is the incorporation of air conditioning.

BEML: The Indian company BEML, which belongs to the public sector and is in charge of manufacturing heavy machinery, got the contract to create 14 new trains that would be incorporated for line 2 during the first half of 2017. Said project had a budget of approximately 900 million dollars, which allowed the manufacturing of trains of up to six wagons and including microprocessors with triphasic engines of CA to control said trains.

CNR Dalian Locomotive Company: The manufacturing of 14 new trains with ultramodern technology was left in the hands of the Chinese company CNR Dalian Locomotive Company. These trains will be incorporated to line 1, and will have 8 wagons each, reaching a maximum speed of 80 km/h and an average speed of 65 km/h. Besides being much faster than other models, these trains will also be better in regards of design and presentation, since they will have an aerodynamic frontal part that will include doors with LED lights, and will also have hallways with plenty of room. They will be silver in color, with a violet stripe. The Chinese firm hopes to send these trains to Kolkata during the first half of December, 2017.

ICF/MEDHA: To the metro’s fleet, two new train prototypes will be incorporated, which will seemingly not have any major resemblance to the previously described trains. They will also be manufactured by ICF, but, in this occasion, with the collaboration of MEDHA, which had planned sending 10 trains by September, 2017. These trains will have, among other things, three engines, a regenerative brake, closed circuit television cameras, and a better system of information for travelers.

Metro map of Calcutta

Metro map of Calcutta Full resolution
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Calcutta Metro Railway map

  • Also Known As: Metro Railway
  • Passengers/Day 474000
  • Fares:
  • 24h operation: No
  • Air Conditioning: No
  • Walk between platforms: No
  • Driverless trains: No
  • Screen Doors Platforms: No
  • Average Speed: 30km/h
  • Max. Speed: 55km/h
  • Operator: Metro Railway, Kolkata (under Central Government Ministry of Railways)
  • 5 RUPEES
  • Calcutta Metro Official Website

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