Indian Railways connectivity gets big boost in poll-bound West Bengal; Check details

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Updated: Mar 15, 2021 11:08 AM

Completion of work on the North-South Metro corridor in Kolkata and inauguration of several railway projects will boost connectivity in the state

The inauguration of the 4.1-km Noapara-Dakhineswar stretch, a part of the Airport-Dakhineswar Metro project in Kolkata, happened after a delay of eight years.The inauguration of the 4.1-km Noapara-Dakhineswar stretch, a part of the Airport-Dakhineswar Metro project in Kolkata, happened after a delay of eight years.

Indian Railways connectivity in West Bengal: Metro and railway infrastructure in poll-bound West Bengal got a shot in the arm with the inauguration of several projects by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February end, which, together with the rail link being built to Sikkim, represent an investment of Rs 6,636-crore in the state.

The inauguration of the 4.1-km Noapara-Dakhineswar stretch, a part of the Airport-Dakhineswar Metro project in Kolkata, happened after a delay of eight years. While the Airport-Noapara stretch started operations in 2013, the delay in building the stretch between Noapara and Dakhineswar saw project cost more than double from Rs 227.53 crore to Rs 464 crore. The new Metro stretch—with which work has been completed on the 31.3-km North-South Corridor (Dakhineswar-Kavi Subhash)—would benefit the people of Hooghly, Howrah and North 24 Parganas, besides Kolkata. However, the completion of the East-West corridor is still mired in uncertainties. A more than 100% cost escalation in Metro projects, from Rs 4,876 cr to above Rs 9,000 crore, has strained its finances, forcing the government to inaugurate small stretches over time.

The railway projects inaugurated in February are a part of the Union government’s effort to boost connectivity in West Bengal, given its significance for trade links with the North East and the neighbouring countries. The laying of a third line for the Kalaikunda-Jhargram link, under the Kharagpur-Adityapur section, at a cost of Rs 544 crore will reduce delays on the Howrah-Mumbai route. The doubling of the 14.60-km long Azimganj-Khagraghat Road line at a cost of Rs 239.38 crore will ensure better connectivity to north Bengal and the North East, besides reducing congestion in Murshidabad district. The 11.28-km fourth line between Dankuni and Baruipara on the Howrah-Bardhaman chord line, entailing an expenditure of Rs 195 crore, and the 42.42-km third line between Rasulpur and Magra on the Howrah-Bardhaman main line, built at a cost of Rs 759 crore, will reduce congestion and ensure faster movement of trains. These new lines will also ensure better connectivity to areas with coal, steel and fertiliser industries, thereby providing an impetus to business activity.

Of special significance in the upgrade of railway infrastructure in West Bengal is the 44.96-km-long Sevok-Rangpo link, which would provide Sikkim rail connectivity for the first time. The proposed line—of which 41.55 km is in Darjeeling in West Bengal and 3.41 km in Sikkim—was first announced in the Union Budget 2008-09. Although the Sikkim and the West Bengal governments provided the requisite clearances and handed over land for the project, preparing the detailed project report and finalising the route alignment took a lot of time, since the tracks were to be laid on Himalayan terrain.

With the project receiving fresh impetus from the Centre, work is in full swing on the rail link, with 12 tunnels out of the total 14 tunnels on the route being built. The 14 tunnels together would cover a distance of 39 km, making it one of India’s most tunnel-intensive projects.

Recent government estimates have pegged project cost at around Rs 4,085 crore. The railways, which spent Rs 682 crore on it in the last fiscal, has provided Rs 607 crore for the project in FY21. The project will boost trade between West Bengal and Sikkim by providing cheaper and more smooth connectivity from a logistics standpoint. Transporting goods to Sikkim through roadways is a costly and hazardous affair at present.

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