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Pandemic hits Jiribam-Imphal railway project
Correspondent
 IMPHAL, Sept 22 - Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has said that the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the progress of works on the 110-km Jiribam-Imphal railway project.

 “As such, a firm completion time of the project cannot be ascertained at this stage,” said Goyal in a written reply to a question raised by Manipur Lok Sabha member Dr RK Ranjan Singh during the Monsoon Session of the Parliament on Monday.

The minister pointed out that the Jiribam-Imphal project is a challenging one built on a hilly terrain having 47 tunnels and 150 bridges, including a 141-metre tall pier.

Goyal said that completion of any railway project depends on factors like quick land acquisition by the State Government, forest clearance, shifting of infringing utilities, statutory clearances from various authorities, geological and topographical conditions of area, law-and-order situation in the area of the project site, number of working months in a year for a particular project site due to climatic conditions, etc. All these factors differ from project to project and affect the completion time, the Railway Minister stressed.

Goyal informed the House that the latest estimated cost of the Manipur project stands at Rs 12,264 crore. An expenditure of Rs 10,089 crore has already been incurred up to March, 2020, and an outlay of Rs 800 crore has been provided for the financial year, 2020-21.

Stating a 12-km stretch between Jiribam and Vangaichungpao was completed and commissioned in March, 2017, he also admitted that mining of 46 out of the total 47 tunnels have been completed. The minister added that mining of 47.40 km of tunnels was done during 2014-2019, which is 110 per cent more than the tunnel mining done during 2009-2014 (22.52 km).

The Railway Minister further stated that five out of the 11 major bridges, 108 out of the 128 minor bridges, three out of the five road overbridges and two out of the 12 road underbridges have been completed.

Meanwhile, Manipur MP Dr Ranjan Singh, when contacted over phone, said that he was not satisfied with the minister’s answer.

Railway Board officials who visited the construction site in February this year, said the Manipur project which was taken up as a national project in 2008, is set to be completed before March, 2022.

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