Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will lay the foundation stone for a new India-Bangladesh railway project and flag-off the Agartala to New Delhi passenger train service on July 31, a Tripura minister said here on Saturday.
Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey, giving the information, said the India-Bangladesh train would run from Agartala (India) to Akhaura (Bangladesh). The Agartala-New Delhi passenger train service will run on the newly-laid broad gauge line, he said.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi might flag off New Delhi-Agartala passenger train service on the same day from the national capital,” Dey told IANS.
Three Tripura Members of Parliament – Jitendra Chowdhury, Sankar Prasad Datta (Lok Sabha) and Jharna Das Baidya (Rajya Sabha) – on Friday met Prabhu in New Delhi and discussed the India-Bangladesh railway project and Agartala-New Delhi passenger train services.
The Prime Minister, who attended the plenary session of the North Eastern Council (NEC) in Shillong in May, was scheduled to inaugurate both through remote control. However, the programme was deferred as the arterial railway line was disrupted due to heavy rain and landslides in Dima Hasao district in south Assam.
The Rs 968 crore Agartala-Akhaura railway project was finalised in January 2010 when Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during her visit to New Delhi.
Following the Tripura government’s persistent persuasion and intervention by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the DoNER (Development of North Eastern Region) ministry has agreed to provide Rs 580 crore for the new railway project, Dey said.
The DoNER ministry recently released Rs 150 crore to start the necessary work for acquisition of 67 acres of land for the project, he said.
The minister said the 15 km (5 km on Indian side and 10 km on Bangladesh side) long Agartala-Akhaura railway project would provide a major boost to the development and economy of the north-eastern region of India and eastern Bangladesh.
The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has done the preliminary work for the project.
India’s External Affairs Ministry would provide the necessary funds for the Bangladesh portion of the Agartala to Akhaura rail project. The DoNER ministry’s funds would be spent for the Indian portion of the project, the minister said.
The 1,650-km distance between Agartala and Kolkata would be reduced to only 550 km once the new rail track is linked through Bangladesh.
Currently, India and Bangladesh have four rail links with West Bengal.
The railway line from Guwahati passes through Lumding in Nagaon district in central Assam and southern Assam connecting land-locked Agartala, parts of Manipur and Mizoram with the rest of India.
The Guwahati-Silchar railway line is the lifeline for southern Assam comprising four districts – Cachar, Karimganj, Hailakandi, Dima Hasao, known as Barak Valley and the mountainous states of Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur.
These states are heavily dependent on this railway line for supply of foodgrains, fertilisers, petroleum products, construction material and other commodities besides ferrying passengers.