German multinational giant Siemens has told West Bengal government it was pulling out of the state’s largest under-construction transport infrastructure project because of delays.
The company, which is laying electrical systems for the entire East West Metro straddling Kolkata and Howrah, has also demanded a compensation of Rs. 10 crore for the delay.
“Siemens has indeed communicated their plans to pull out. Talks are still on, and we are trying to retain them. If this company quits it will deal a blow to the project,” said HK Sharma, managing director Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC), which is implementing the project.
When contacted, a senior Siemens official refused to comment.
The project costing about Rs. 4,875 crore is a challenging one, as it involves laying high-tension electrical cables through a tunnel beneath the Hooghly river. When work started in 2009, it was supposed to be completed by 2014. Now, none has any clear idea when the prestigious 15-km project will be completed.
In May 2013, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that was supposed to pump in loans of Rs. 2,253 crore threatened to stop funding due to delay in the work.
Eventually, the KMRC authorities worked through the centre to somehow persuade JICA to provide funds. The Siemens threat is no less grave.
An official in the KMRC said the fresh crisis erupted following the dispute over setting up a power sub-station on a plot of land close to the Bengal Chemical unit on EM Bypass.
The KMRC, has been facing serial jolts for the last four years. It had selected Siemens in 2010 for laying cables at the cost of Rs. 175 crore.
But repeated jolts starting from encroachment by slum dwellers as well as land acquisition problems have delayed the works.
About a year ago there was strong resistance from the encroachers of Sevaknagar when KMRC wanted to construct three new pillars for the project.
The issue was resolved after the administration rehabilitated encroachers as well slum dwellers within Subhas Sarovar complex.
Fresh administrative hurdle cropped up at Duttabad following rehabilitation of more than 100 families, but resolved after chief minister Mamata Banerjee intervened.
In addition to these hurdles, contractors have also quoted steep revision in their rates because of several changes in the design at several points of the elevated corridor.
Currently, there is a deadlock over the realignment of the route and land acquisition problem on BB Ganguly Street near Bowbazar.