India’s first underwater train route is likely to be operational between Howrah and Kolkata by 2023. Read on to know more about this ambitious metro project by Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation.

The average Kolkata commuter is no stranger to underground metro rides. In fact, Metro Railway Kolkata, run by the Ministry of Railways, is India’s first planned and operational rapid transit system. However, what Kolkata is about to witness soon is beyond the wildest dreams of even the regular metro commuters.

About the Project

The Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation (KMRC) is set to complete India’s first-ever underwater train by 2023. The East-West metro corridor project will connect Salt Lake to Howrah via Kolkata. The entire length of the metro route from Salt Lake to Howrah would be 16.55 Km. Out of this, the 9.30 Km long Salt Lake to Sealdah stretch is operational. The remaining 7.25 Km length between Sealdah and Howrah will likely be operational by 2023. 

Going Underwater

Of the total 16.55 Km long metro route, 520 meters of the underwater railway track will be under the riverbed of Hooghly. The twin tunnel is built 33 meters below the riverbed. The underwater train will cover this distance from Howrah station to Mahakaran station in just under a minute. 

The one-of-a-kind underwater train tunnel is already being compared with Eurostar, the train that goes under the ocean between London and Paris. At a depth of 33 meters, the Howrah metro station will be the deepest. It’ll surpass the Delhi Metro’s Hauz Khas metro station, with a depth of 29 meters. 

Major Challenges

A project attempting to run a train that goes underwater is bound to face some major challenges. This project is no different. The project engineers had to make designs considering various factors like the soil type, depth of the riverbed, ventilation system, etc. One of the major challenges was waterproofing the tunnel and the gaskets’ design. 

Ensuring Safety

KMRC has implemented numerous safety measures to ensure the safety of passengers. To begin with, Kolkata falls under seismic zone 3. Therefore, utmost precaution has been taken in the choice of materials and construction design to prevent damage during a potential earthquake. The underwater portion of the twin tunnels will be made of 1.4-meter wide concrete rings. 

Next comes the hydrophilic gaskets between the concrete of the tunnels. The gaskets will open up in case of water leakage, preventing water from entering the tunnel. The tunnels will have walkways to evacuate passengers in an emergency or technical problems. 

A Respite for Commuters

Howrah station is one of the busiest railway stations in India. As a result, the station area often witnesses a large crowd jostling for space and passenger transport like buses and taxis. Besides, the route from Howrah station to central Kolkata often witnesses traffic jams during peak hours. 

All this will change once the entire Salt Lake Sector V to Howrah Maidan stretch of the East-West Metro Corridor becomes operational. The passengers can then take the metro at Howrah station and reach Salt Lake Sector V in 27 minutes, cutting at least an hour from the current travel time by road. 

Besides being an architectural marvel, India’s first underwater train is set to become a milestone in the nation’s journey toward a fast and efficient public transport system. 

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