NORTH LAKHIMPUR, Sept 11 – The metre gauge train service which has been running in the Rangiya-Murkongchelek route for last 50 years is now history for the people of Lakhimpur and its neighbouring districts of Dhemaji and Sonitpur following the last departure of the passenger train from North Lakhimpur on September 1.
The metre gauge train service to this frontier area of Assam was introduced during the emergent period of Chinese aggression of 1962 when communication links to this area, known as the ‘Koliapani’, was urgently needed for the movement of troops and supplies.
Since then, regular train services has been on between Guwahati and Murkongchelek via Rangiya in metre gauge. The service provided vital help to the passengers of remote areas of Darrang, Sonitpur, Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts, mostly the tea garden areas bordering with Arunachal Pradesh to travel to Guwahati and make railway links with the rest of the country despite many shortcomings and limitations.
The North East Frontier Railway run a passenger service named Arunachal Express between Guwahati and Murkongchelek daily providing a very cheap and comfortable journey for thousands of people between these areas. The NFR also run passenger trains between Alipur Dwar-Rangiya-Murkongchelek which also provided great services to the public of this region.
The freight service in this route also provided all essential supplies like food grains, fuel and cement to this entire area where road communication is annually affected by flood. When broad gauge system was introduced up to Guwahati, the Arunachal Express was given the metre gauge tracks from platform number 8 in the Guwahati Railway Station up to late 1980s. When the railway station of Guwahati was completely converted into broad gauge tracks, the services of Arunachal Express was shifted to Kamakhya station to Murkongchelek.
However, from the first decade of the 21st century, the service of Arunachal Express was further shifted to Rangiya till its recent closure last year. The train services between Rangiya-Murkongchelek route were badly hit during the long insurgency period of the Bodoland movement from late 1980s to mid 1990s. But later it became a favourite option for commuters to travel as large number of people used this service.
In the present scenario of heavy traffic on the NH-52 and increased price hike of bus fare, public in this region have been contemplating for the demand of a direct express inter-city train service between Guwahati and North Lakhimpur. But the suspension of railway service in the metre gauge track by the NFR for good has ended such a possibility.
The suspension of railway service to this region is made to speed up the gauge conversion work between Rangiya and Murkongchelek. The NFR is expected to complete the gauge conversion work by 2012. If it is completed on time, this region will again be connected with the railway map of the country with broad gauge service bringing speedier and bigger trains.
But the memory of metre gauge train service will be a mater of nostalgia for the public here as the last passenger train “Puchi-Siliguri” left North Lakhimpur Railway Station at 11.30 am on September 1 last with a long whistle ending a 50-year-old journey.