Indian prime minister, Mr Narendra Modi, was reportedly scheduled to inaugurate the first phase of the East West corridor on October 24. However, this has been cancelled following objections by the Commissioner of Rail Safety (CRS) on passenger safety, a senior Ministry of Railways official said.

After an earlier inspection on the first leg of the section in July, CRS flagged concerns on the “defective bearings” on the piers, while instructing the authorities to undertake a software upgrade on the train control and management system. Official’s claims about the issues having been fixed were belied following a second CRS survey that was completed on Thursday. “The CRS report is in the process of getting prepared. As of now, there are no plans to start commercial operations on the stretch,” a Ministry of Railways official said.

Major uncertainties persist on whether work will restart on the unfinished 10.8km underground section of the line. Construction of the unfinished section of the line was halted in August following the collapse of approximately 100 old buildings in central Kolkata’s Bowbazar area after the earth caved in during tunnelling work in the neighbourhood, forcing residents to evacuate.

Indian Railways (IR), the implementing agency, has solicited international tunnelling experts including Mr Paul Vireli of South Africa, Mr Guy Bridges from Hong Kong and geotechnical engineer Mr John Endocott from Singapore.

The East West line, originally slated to open in 2012, is designed to connect the twin cities of Kolkata and Howrah. Of the 16.6km, 5.8km will be elevated and 10.8km will run underground. Twin 520m-long tunnels under the Hooghly River are planned as part of the underground section.

With a project cost of Rs 48.7bn ($US 684.5m) the East West Line was originally conceived as a 14.67km line. After a major realignment in 2016, the length was increased to 16.55km. Following delays including foreign currency losses, project cost have increased approximately 80% to nearly Rs 90bn.

The 27.22km Line 1 from Noapara to Kavi Subhash is currently Kolkata’s only operational metro line, while three new lines are in various stages of construction.

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