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Indo-Bangla rail project progressing at a snail’s pace

 AGARTALA, Aug 25 - Works on a 12.23 km India-Bangladesh new railway line are moving at a snail’s pace in both the countries, around a decade after Rs 972 crore project was finalised.

 The new target of completing the much-expected project has been re-fixed in September next year.

The Agartala (India)-Akhaura (Bangladesh) railway line will facilitate ferrying of goods to and from both the countries and greatly benefit the northeastern States. Also, the journey time between Agartala and Kolkata, via Bangladesh, will be reduced by a third, from 1,613-km through mountainous terrain to a mere 514 km.

The government-owned IRCON International Limited (IRCON), under the Ministry of Railways, has been executing the project, for which the DoNER (Development of North Eastern Region) Ministry and India’s Ministry External Affairs (MEA) will bear the entire cost (Rs 972 crore) of the project on either side.

“Works for the Agartala-Akhaura railway project are on. After the ongoing monsoon, the works will be stepped-up. The fresh target of completion of the project has been re-scheduled in September 2020,” a top IRCON official told IANS.

The official refused to be named said linking with the existing Agartala railway station, of the 12.23 km India-Bangladesh new railway line, 5.46 km railway track would be laid in India (on the outskirts of Agartala) and 6.57 km railway line would be placed on the Bangladesh side.

Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb recently held a meeting with the IRCON officials and engineers led by director (works) Jogesh Mishra and Agartala-Akhaura railway project head Raman Singla (assistant general manager) and directed them to complete the project at the earliest.

The IRCON official said on the Indian side, 3.1 km portion of the railway track would be elevated to avoid 26 acres of farmland and habitations.

The IRCON, which has widespread operations in India and other countries, including Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, the United Kingdom and Sri Lanka, is now also executing the 86.87 km long Khulna-Mongla rail line project between India and Bangladesh along West Bengal.

Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) is the nodal agency of the Agartala-Akhaura railway project, which was finalised in January 2010 when Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina met the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during her visit to New Delhi.

According to economists, traders and leaders of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, economic activity between North East India and Bangladesh would get a big boost after the implementation of the railway project, which also figured during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Sheikh Hasina during his visit to Dhaka in June 2015.

“After the execution of the vital project, the growing trades and economic activity between the northeastern States and Bangladesh will further benefit both sides,” said Ashish Nath, head of the department of economics at Tripura University, adding, “all the previous rail links, existed till the partition of India and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) must be restored for the all-round gain of the two countries.”  

Currently, India and Bangladesh have four rail links with West Bengal.

The existing railway line from Guwahati passes through Lumding in Nagaon district and southern Assam connecting Agartala and parts of Manipur and Mizoram with the rest of the country.

In October 2008, with the extension of the metre gauge track up to Agartala through southern Assam, Tripura became the first State capital in the North East to be brought on India’s rail map after the country’s independence. Later, the metre gauge line was converted into broad gauge and extended up to southern Tripura’s bordering town Sabroom, which is just 72 km away from Chittagong international seaport in Bangladesh. – IANS

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