January 13, 2009

Kolkata may get monorail running on LPG in two years

Kolkata: A monorail service running on cooking gas? With an eye on the record books, that is exactly what a Kolkata-based company has planned for the city two years on. "No monorail system in the world runs on LPG (liquefied petroleum gas). We want to be the first to do so. We have spoken to Indian Oil (Corporation) for providing us with adequate support for such a service," Biplab Bhattacharya, director of Andromeda Technologies, told mediapersons.

Andromeda has got the contract for constructing the first stretch of 20 km of monorail from Budge Budge to Taratala on a build-own-and-operate basis for an approximate cost of Rs.600 million (Rs.60 crore) per km. The train will use hybrid technology that will enable it to run on both electricity and LPG. It will have four coaches, each with its own electric generator, which would accommodate 150 passengers.

"We expect to start the project in March 2009. It will take a little more than two years to complete the work. Indian Oil officials have said they can ready proper infrastructure for LPG support within the time frame when the monorail work is scheduled to be completed," Bhattacharya said. The company plans to run the train with hydrogen gas in future, he added. "We are also planning a feeder service with around 40 LPG buses, which will help the commuters travel to their destinations from the monorail stations," Bhattacharya said.

As of now the city has no LPG or compressed natural gas (CNG) buses. Asked whether the city was equipped to supply fuel for the LPG bus service, an Indian Oil official said: "Now there are 12 LPG pumps in the city. We have five pumps. If there is market requirement, I am sure we will be able to meet it. There is no shortage of LPG. We have a refinery at Haldia."

The monorail will be the latest addition to the various rail transport networks in the city. Apart from the general railway service, the city already has the metro railway, the circular rail and the tram. Once the first phase is complete, the government will take a call on awarding the contract for the second phase stretching 52 km till Rajarhat in the city's northeastern fringes.

"Based on how the first phase goes, we will consider how to award the contract for the remaining work. The main constraint for such a project within the city is space," said West Bengal Transport Secretary Sumantra Chowdhury. The total expense for the first phase will be to the tune of Rs.12 billion, with a debt-equity ratio of 4:1. Now Andromeda is looking for overseas financial partners and hopes to clinch a deal soon.

The company will initially rope in coaches from Germany. But in due course, it will get coaches manufactured in India. It will partner German companies Fernmeldewerk Munchen Aubing GmbH for signalling and Derap AG & Helbling Technik for technological know-how.

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