To improve crucial connectivity, the railways has been allocating higher budget in the last five years for several projects it had taken up in the region.
With an emphasis on providing rail connectivity to the entire North Eastern (NE) region, Indian Railways has accelerated the work connecting state capitals of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. The states have been connected by a broad gauge (BG) rail network.
As per Vision Document 2020, the government has undertaken a major exercise to connect all state capitals of North East by 2020 except Sikkim with railway connectivity.
In Sikkim also, new line work has been sanctioned from Sivok in West Bengal up to Rangpo in Sikkim in the first phase.
Since the rail connectivity plays an important role in the development process, railways have taken up several projects in the NE region and allocated a higher budget in the last five years for this purpose, said a senior Railway Ministry official responsible for monitoring the North East projects.
According to the railways’ data, as on April 2019, the national transporter has taken up 20 (14 new lines and six doubling) projects of a total length of 1,786 km, costing Rs 73,214 crore in North East region, which are in different stages of planning, sanction and execution.
For the NE region, the average allotment per year for infrastructure and safety projects was Rs 2,122 crore per year from 2009-14. However, it increased by 161 per cent to Rs 5,531 crore per year for this region during 2014-19.
As a mission, the capital city of all NE states – Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Sikkim – are to be connected with the main network of Indian Railways (IR).
Out of eight, the capital cities of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura have been connected with IR network and work is in progress on the remaining five states.
In Arunachal Pradesh, a BG railway line was commissioned in February 2015 upto Naharlagun (suburban city of Itanagar) and first BG train was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 20 February 2015, from Naharlagun (Itanagar) to New Delhi.
In Tripura, the first BG passenger train (long-distance) ‘Tripura Sundari’ running between Agartala to Anand Vihar (Delhi) was introduced on 31 July 2016.
Works of new BG lines have been taken up to connect the remaining capitals of NE states – Meghalaya (Shillong), Manipur (Imphal), Nagaland (Kohima), Mizoram (Aizawl) and Sikkim (Gangtok).
Explaining all these projects as challenging, the official said most of these projects are undertaken in difficult terrain and in some states, the progress of new line projects of capital connectivity has been affected mainly due to delay in land acquisition and law and order issues.
All these capital connectivity projects being in the hilly terrain of Himalayas involve a large number of tunnels and major bridges including very tall bridges in a very challenging geological environment.
In Manipur, the project of BG line connectivity from Jiribam to Imphal (110.62 km) in Manipur state was sanctioned in 2003-04. The latest anticipated cost of the project is Rs 12,524 crore. The section from Jiribam to Vangaichungpao (12 km) was commissioned in March 2017 and work from Vangaichungpao-Tupul- Imphal (98.62 km) has been taken up. This project is likely to be completed by 22 March.
In Mizoram, the project of BG line connectivity from Bhairabi to Sairang (51.38 km)(suburban city of Aizawl, the capital city of Mizoram) in Mizoram was sanctioned in 2008-09. The anticipated cost of the project is Rs 5,021 crore, and the land could only be made available in 2014- 15 and work speeded up from 2015-16.
The construction work has been taken up throughout the length of the project and 80 per cent tunnelling work has been completed and the work on six tall bridges has been taken up. This project is likely to be completed by 23 March.
In Nagaland, the project of BG line connectivity from Dimapur (Dhansiri) – Zubza (Kohima) (82.50km) (suburban city of Kohima, the capital city of Nagaland) in Nagaland was sanctioned in 2006-07. The latest anticipated cost of the project is Rs 3,000 crore and the work speeded up from September 2018. The construction work has been taken up throughout the length of the project. This project is likely to be completed by 23 March.
In Meghalaya, two projects of the BG line have been taken up for capital connectivity of Meghalaya. New BG line from Tetelia – Byrnihat (21.50 km) in Meghalaya was sanctioned in 2006-07. The latest anticipated cost of the project is Rs 1,532 crore and the work speeded up from 2014-15, 10 km length of the project falling in Assam from Tetelia to Kamalajari got completed in October 2018.
New BG line from Byrnihat to Shillong (108.40 km) was sanctioned in 2010-11. The latest anticipated cost of the project is Rs 6,000 crore. Some organisations are stating that railway connectivity may lead to an influx of outsiders and this has led to some local resistance to this project.
The official said now, the issue has been taken up for early resolution. The target date for completion of Tetelia – Byrnihat and Byrnihat to Shillong not fixed, as the same would be decided, once the complete land is physically handed over to railways.
In Sikkim, the project of BG line connectivity from Sivok to Rangpo (44.39 km) was sanctioned in 2008-09. The latest anticipated cost of the project is Rs 4,086 crore.
However, the project had suffered delay for a long time, as the government of West Bengal had not given encumbrance free land (77.78 hectare forest land after cutting of trees) to railways, due to which, even the timely finalisation of tenders got affected. Now, the said land has been received and work has been taken up and this project is likely to be completed by 22 December.
Towards its mission to provide BG connectivity to capital cities of all states of the NE region, the metre gauge (MG) track to Agartala, the capital of Tripura, has been converted into BG on 2 May 2016. First long-distance train (Tripura Sundari Express) was introduced between Agartala and Delhi on 31 July 2016.
Bogibeel rail-cum-road bridge, the national project was completed and commissioned by the Prime Minister on 25 December 2018.
By commissioning of this 4.94 km-long bridge over the Brahmaputra river, travel time between Naharlagun (Itanagar) and Dibrugarh reduced from 24 hours to five hours. Alongside, Lumding-Hojai Doubling (44.92 km) completed and commissioned and opened for passenger traffic in July 2019.
Agartala-Sabroom new line (112 km), a national project, completed and commissioned and opened for passenger traffic in October 2019. First passenger train on Lumding – Silchar newly-converted gauge conversion BG section was flagged off on 21 November 2015. Barak Valley of Assam is connected to major cities of the country through BG connectivity.
Jiribam, the first railway station in Manipur was connected by BG rail line and the first freight train was received on 20 February 2016. First passenger train service to Jiribam in Manipur was flagged off by Prime Minister by remote control from Shillong on 27 May 2016.
Bhairabi, the first railway station in Mizoram was connected by BG rail line and the first freight train was received on 21 March 2016. First passenger train service to Bhairabi in Mizoram was flagged off by Prime Minister by remote control from Shillong on 27 May 2016.
This piece was first published on IndiaInfraHub, and has been republished here with permission.