Indian Infrastructure: Kolkata

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Nov. 11 – Kolkata is an old, historic city and much of its infrastructure reflects this reality. The city has India’s oldest operating and only major fresh water port. The city’s road systems were made for the many rickshaws that still ply their trade around town; now, the roads struggle to keep up with the ever-increasing number of cars. However, Kolkata is not afraid to try new things as reflected by it being the first city in India to build a metro system. In this highly energetic city, growth and modernization are the order of the day, and its infrastructure continues to expand.

City Infrastructure
Kolkata’s metro was the first underground metro system in India. The system runs for 16.45 kilometers north to south from Dum Dum (near the Kolkata Airport) to Tollygunj, which is also a key terminal point for buses.

Under construction currently is an east-west corridor stretching from Howrah Railway Station on the west bank of the Hugli River, underground and across the river, connecting with the north-south metro line, and continuing east to the Salt Lake City community.

Connections to India Railway stations, as well as key bus terminals facilitate integration of different transport systems. However, completion of the entire east-west line is now two years behind its schedule and it appears clear that it will miss its original completion date of 2014. An elevated portion of the metro could be finished somewhat sooner connecting Phoolbagan and the Salt Lake City IT Hub areas.

National Highway 2 (NH-2), connecting Kolkata to New Delhi, is an integral part of the national Golden Quadrangle, which connects Kolkata with three of the country’s other major metropolises – Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai. A number of road development projects have been taken up under public-private partnerships (PPP), including the Kolkata-Durgapur toll expressway.

The number of vehicles on the roads of Kolkata is increasing every year. Currently, the city has 1 vehicle for every 3.6 people. In addition to the motorized vehicles, the city is abound with rickshaws, cycle vans, and pull carts. According to Madan Mitra, West Bengal Transport and Sports minister, the volume of traffic in the city has increased 15-20 percent compared to last year. Problematically, road space in Kolkata has dropped from the previous year’s level of around 6 percent to a current low of 4 percent (this is compared to global average of around 30 percent).

Though traffic in the city’s central business district is congested, high-tech area traffic control systems are being installed to help facilitate movement through the dense core of the city. Additional road space is also being planned, including elevated freeways.

Howrah, Sealdah, and Chitpur are the main railway junctions in Kolkata, which are well connected with the rest of the city by bus. Indian Railway routes from Kolkata to major cities in the state and the rest of the country run from these hubs. Delays and cancellations however are not uncommon, as inclement weather and fog affect safety.

Many of the rail routes include special “women only” carriages in order to allow women a more relaxed commute.

The city is also the headquarters of two of India Railway’s regional divisions: the South-Eastern Railway and the Eastern Railway.

The Kolkata Airport, also known as the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, is located just 18 kilometers from Kolkata in Dum Dum. The Kolkata Airport operates international and domestic flights to major Indian cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Patna, Lucknow, and Bangalore, among others.

The airport has undergone a number of renovations including adding a new terminal, updating runways, and increasing overall capacity. While the completion was initially delayed, the new terminal went into operation at the beginning of this year.

Kolkata can be accessed via the country’s oldest operating and only major river port, with two dock systems – the Kolkata Dock System and the deep-water Haldia Dock Complex, 104 kilometer downstream towards the Bay of Bengal.

The Kolkata Port handled 43.248 million tons of traffic during the 2011-2012 period, with its throughput ranking among the highest in India. Kolkata Port handled 16 percent of all vessels that came through India’s ports in 2011-2012, the highest of any port in the country. The port ranked third in terms of container traffic handling and the Kolkata Dock System saw the highest growth in container traffic out of all of the major ports of India.

The West Bengal Government also plans to construct a marine cluster at Kulpi, at the mouth of the Hooghly River. The cluster would include shipbuilding, repair, and loading and unloading facilities.

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