A Rs 40 billion project to connect Kolkata with Howrah by an underwater metro line has been cleared by the central government.
"A nine-kilometre stretch of the 19-km metro line from Ramrajatala in Howrah to Salt Lake here will pass below the Ganga river," West Bengal Transport Secretary Sumantra Chowdhury was quoted as saying by the media on Saturday.
New Delhi has also reportedly permitted the West Bengal government to discuss the project with the Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC). Chowdhury refused to divulge the details of the mega project.
The underwater metro plan was first thought of when the first metro service was inaugurated in Kolkata in 1984 by former prime minister Indira Gandhi. The route is to cover 18 stations and go under the river through a tunnel.
While the state government is scouting for private parties for collaboration, Kolkata Metro Railway authorities earlier said it was vying for the project as it is well "geared up to build the corridor".
"We will involve ourselves in the project only after the state government asks us to join," said Samir Chand Banerjee, a spokesperson of Metro Railway.
Added Metro Railway General Manager Sudha Chobe: "The corridor should be designed for a high density metro of 60,000-75,000 people per hour peak direction trip."
The metro now links Dum Dum near the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International airport to Tollygunje in south Kolkata over a length of 16.45 km.