West Bengal-Sikkim Rail Project On The Fast Track

by Amit Mishra - Sep 15, 2022 05:39 PM +05:30 IST
West Bengal-Sikkim Rail Project On The Fast TrackAn inspection of tunnel work on Sivok-Rangpo project.
Snapshot
  • This project will provide strategic advantage to the defence forces of India and also foster increased commerce, tourism and transportation while opening up new economic opportunities.

Indian Railways (IR) recently shared a status update on the ongoing construction work of Sivok-Rangpo project, which will bring Sikkim under the Indian Railways network.

All the North Eastern states except Sikkim have been connected to the rail network. As such, the 44.96-km long railway line was conceptualised to connect Sivok in West Bengal with Rangpo in Sikkim.

According to the progress report shared by the railways, about 55 per cent tunnelling work (21.197 km of 38.55 km) in this route have been completed.

The progress in tunnelling work is important considering that the project has 38.55 km of tunnelling work, which is more than 92 per cent of the entire project length and comprises 14 tunnels.

Sivok-Rangpo BG Line
Sivok-Rangpo BG Line

Similarly, 40 per cent work has been completed on the 13 major bridges which falls in this hilly terrain. The project includes 14 major bridges and six minor bridges.

Background

The 45-km-long rail line project was included in the Union Budget of 2008.

The foundation stone for the project was laid down by then railway minister, Mamata Banerjee, in 2009 and was supposed to be completed by 2015.

However, the project remained stalled due to delays in land acquisition and forest clearances.

The work of rail connectivity made quick progress after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ticked off officials from the railways and the West Bengal government in early 2021.

Following the Prime Minister’s push, approvals from the state government came fast, and subsequently all the tenders have been awarded and work is progressing fast.

The government has set December 2023 as the deadline for this crucial North East connectivity project.

Layout

The new broad-gauge railway line project from Sivok to Rangpo has been planned through the foothills of Kanchenjunga Mountain range of the Himalayas along Teesta River valley.

The alignment passes through tectono-stratigraphic unit of Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalayas.

While 41.55 km of the railway line falls in the Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts of West Bengal, the remaining portion of around 3.41 km will run through Pakyong district of Sikkim.

The project branches out from New Jalpaiguri-Alipurduar Rail line at Sivok Railway Station, near Siliguri in Darjeeling district and terminates at Rangpo Railway Station in Pakyong district of Sikkim.

The project includes four stations — Riyang, Teesta Bazar and Melli in West Bengal and Rangpo in Sikkim. The Teesta Bazar Station in the Kalimpong district would be underground.

In the second phase of construction, this line will be extended till Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim.

The line was initially estimated to be completed at a cost of Rs 1,339.48 crore. But because of the delay in the construction, the cost has escalated to more than Rs 7,000 crore.

Significance

Currently, Sikkim is dependent solely on National Highway-10A from Siliguri. The highway gets disrupted due to frequent landslides during monsoons. The new railway line will provide all weather connectivity to Sikkim.

Once completed, the national project is expected to boost connectivity of the land locked state which shares its borders with three neighbouring countries — China, Nepal and Bhutan apart from being strategically important.

This project will provide strategic advantage to the defence forces of India and also foster increased commerce, tourism and transportation while opening up new economic opportunities.

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