Indian Railways News

Dispute with Railways over dues could hold up Chennai Metro Rail work

Even as Chennai Metro Rail Ltd (CMRL) has opened key stations like Central and Egmore connecting the terminal railway stations, the state agency is involved in a bitter financial feud with Southern Railway over payment of dues to the tune of Rs 275 crore.

Documents accessed by TOI show that Southern Railway demanded unpaid dues of Rs 275.88 crore from metro rail for tunnels that cross railway land and land-use charges. Southern Railway has indicated that if the charges are not paid, it might not be able to permit metro rail to carry out further work at these locations.

Union railway minister Piyush Goyal wrote to Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami in February, asking CMRL to pay its dues.

But metro rail on May 16 wrote an eight-page letter to Southern Railway, saying the calculations were wrong and instead Southern Railway should pay Rs 215.81 crore to CMRL.

A data sheet attached by metro rail said it had paid Rs 485.72 crore to the railways. The actual amount payable was Rs 269.90 crore.

Under railway policy, metro rail must pay 99% of the market value of the land as ‘railway land crossing charges’ if the depth of the tunnel’s roof is less than 15m.

The depth of tunnels in the approach to Chennai Egmore is less than 15m — a fact that CMRL did not inform the railways about, Southern Railway said in a letter. It did not take permission to operate the tunnel boring machines on the line either. “Metro rail violated norms of working,” the letter said.

However, metro rail raised five objections. It challenged the application of tunnel crossing charges stating that there was no guideline on construction of tunnels at a depth of less than 15m. “The tunnel design allows Southern Railway to undertake future expansion, operation and maintenance without any hindrance,” CMRL said.

Metro rail stated that railways had incorrectly applied a 7% escalation over the guideline value while calculating land charges. It has also contested the railway’ s calculation of actual extent of land in Guindy, Egmore, Central and Washermenpet.

Railway has also billed CMRL Rs 3.43 crore for traffic diversion at Chennai Central which the latter has opposed. “Around 378sqm was given to railways to shift parking for autorickshaws and taxi bay. CMRL also constructed a foot over-bridge for smooth crossing,” metro rail said.

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