Monorail red herring: where is the money?

While the state government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the country’s first Light Rail Transit System in Kolkata,it’s not sure how it will raise funds for the Rs 4,500-crore project that will link the city’s southern suburbs and northern suburbs.

Written by Madhuparna Das | Kolkata | Published: February 20, 2009 2:08 am

While the state government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the country’s first Light Rail Transit System (LRTS) in Kolkata,it’s not sure how it will raise funds for the Rs 4,500-crore project that will link the city’s southern suburbs and northern suburbs.

The MoU for the project was signed on Wednesday at a function that was attended by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. The first proposal for monorail project was submitted in 1994-95 by the Mukund group but was rejected outright. A modified LRTS project was again mooted in 2004 and the state government announced that the project would come up in 4-5 years. The project,however,remained mothballed.

Though the foundation stone for the mega monorail project has been laid,the state government is still waiting for a detailed project report and funds.

S S Chakraborty,chairman,Consulting Engineering Services (India) Pvt Ltd,the consultancy firm for the project,admitted that the project had been hanging fire for want of funds. “Initially,we went for the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme for which we needed to proceed through the Union urban development ministry and the Planning Commission. We were asked to submit a mobility plan by the Planning Commission,which we did a few years ago. But we are yet to receive any response,” said Chakraborty.

“We were told if we get the funds for the project under the JNNURM scheme,then funds for all other projects under it may dry up. So,we had to drop the idea,” said Chakraborty. “At present,some funds will come from the finance partners of the consortium for which they will collect the royalty for the next 30 years after the project is completed. Some amount of funds will be received from advertisements and rest of the funds will be given by the state government which is equivalent to viability gap funding,” he added.

The state had also urged for a viability gap funding for the project but was denied by the Centre,said a senior transport official.

The CES is not even sure what amount has to be funded by the state and whether it will be able to afford it.

A CES official said the LRTS project was delayed since the state government wanted to go slow on it as the funds for the East-West Metro Corridor project was also not arranged till then.

“It’s only after the Japan Bank for International Cooperation agreed to give loan for the East-West Metro Corridor project that we got the nod for proceeding with the LRTS project,” said the official.

There is a little scope of getting loans from the international banks for the project as the Asian Development Bank does not fund transport projects and the World Bank did not take any interest in it.

State transport secretary Sumantra Cowdhury refused to comment saying he is too busy.

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