GUWAHATI, Feb 24 – With the Railway Budget scheduled to be presented in the Parliament on February 26, people of Assam and the North East are eagerly waiting for new schemes for the region to boost connectivity and bring it at par with the rest of the country.
The Assam Rail Passengers' Association (ARPA) has called upon the Union Government and the Railway Ministry to ensure that major demands of the region including double-tracking, second rail bridge at Saraighat, bifurcation of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) zone and a push for sub-urban and local trains are addressed in the Budget.
ARPA general secretary Dipankar Sharma said that the demand for double-tracking in the state is a long-standing one and the forthcoming Railway Budget is an opportunity for the Centre to prove its commitment to address the region’s need for connectivity and development.
“We hope this Budget will fulfill the long cherished wishes of the people of Assam and the North East. Double-tracking and expanding the rail network to interior areas is a strategic need for this region due to our unique geography and hostile surroundings. Expansion of connectivity will not only help passengers but also provide a much-needed boost to trade and commerce,” Sharma said, adding that electrification projects should also be taken up in the railway tracks in the North East.
He added that the rail bridge over Brahmaputra at Saraighat has already completed 50 years and there is now an urgent need to build a second bridge in the place.
“Besides, the NFR zone currently is in charge of not only the North Eastern states but also parts of Bihar and West Bengal. Most of the funds and projects are diverted to these two eastern states while the North East remains deprived. NFR zone should be bifurcated and there should be a separate zone exclusively catering to the needs of the North East only. Only then will the region be able to benefit from new schemes," Sharma said.
ARPA has also called for more local trains from Guwahati and Dibrugarh to cater to passengers from across the state.
“This way we will be able to develop a comprehensive sub-urban service and provide affordable transport facility to people, particularly daily passenger like students and office-goers, in far-flung areas where income levels are very low,” Sharma said.
The Association has called for introduction of double decker or DEMU rake for short distance passenger trains.
Besides, it has demanded that the Centre should announce Janashatabdi service from Guwahati to Dhubri via Rangiya and also to Silchar. In addition, it has also called for Shatabdi service from New Jalpaiguri to Guwahati via Rangiya, connecting Rangiya-Rangapara-Naharlagun section.
ARPA has also demanded that major trains from this region to Delhi, like the North East Express, should be extended to New Delhi station as was the case earlier, instead of being terminated at Anand Vihar, for convenience of passengers.
“The budget should have provision for construction of passenger terminals at New Guwahati, Pandu and Agthori with higher holding capacity and also for a DEMU shed at Pandu," he said.
The Passengers’ Association has also demanded the Centre for a sub-urban terminal at Sorbhog to facilitate required infrastructure for short distance local trains to transport the agricultural products of Barpeta and nearby areas.
Sharma said railway line should be extended to Tezpur town and the rail stations at Tezpur, Agthori and Dibrugarh town should be declared as heritage stations.
“We also call upon the Railway Minister to sanction a flyover at Lahowal crossing at Dibrugarh,” Sharma said.
For growth of international commerce, ARPA has called upon the Centre to fast-track the survey process of extending railway lines to Bhutan.
Sharma said the MPs from the region generally refrain from raising issues related to railway services in their specific constituencies and urged them to lobby with the Railway Ministry for fulfilment of these demands.