Rail infrastructure in India’s North East will get a massive and unprecedented boost over the next three years with the Railway Ministry planning to execute 491 projects costing a whopping Rs 6.48 lakh crore across the region, said Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal.
Highlights Of The Connectivity Boost
* Laying 189 new rail lines, converting the remaining 55 metre-gauge tracks to broad-gauge, laying double tracks and electrification of the arterial lines connecting the state capitals by 2022.
* All projects are in different stages of planning, approval and execution.
* Until March this year, Rs 1.43 lakh crore had been spent on laying new tracks, strengthening existing ones and in various rail infrastructure projects in the region.
Rail Link To Tawang
The proposed rail link to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh is the most ambitious:
* The proposed rail will cover a distance of 166 kilometre.
* Rail line will pass through elevations of over 10,000 feet.
* Around 80 per cent of the tracks will pass through tunnels, the longest one being 29.48 km long.
* Apart from boosting tourism, this rail line will also facilitate faster movement of troops and military hardware to the international border.
Rail Link to Gangtok
Another major link is the one to Sikkim’s capital Gangtok, which is under construction now.
* A 112-km track will connect Sevoke in North Bengal to Gangtok and will pass through steep terrain and the Teesta river valley.
* Rail tracks will pass through many tunnels and over 200 bridges, and is expected to be completed by 2024.
Train To Manipur
* About 65 per cent of the work on linking Manipur capital Imphal by rail to Assam has been completed. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2021.
* After that, the line to Imphal will be extended to Moreh on the India-Myanmar border, from where it will then be extended to Myanmar to form part of the ambitious Trans-Asian Railway line.
* About 60 per cent of the work on connecting Mizoram’s capital Aizawl by rail has been completed and the hill city is expected to figure on the country’s rail map by end-2021.
* Only 25 per cent of the work on laying the 82.5 km line from Dimapur (Nagaland’s only railhead at present) to Zubza near state capital Kohima has been completed.
* Goyal has asked NFR authorities to sit with the Nagaland government to accelerate the process of land acquisition that is holding up progress on this rail link.
* Construction has also been delayed due to monsoons and landslides triggered by rains.
Meghalaya Likely To Stay Out
* The rail link to Byrnihat in Meghalaya, however, has been facing interminable protests from various organisations in that state.
* Railways had proposed to extend this proposed link to state capital Shillong, but many in the state are vehemently opposed to Meghalaya being put on the country’s railway map.
* Tribals of Meghalaya fear that a rail link would open the floodgates to uncontrolled influx of people from the rest of the country to the tribal state.
Goyal had said that timely completion of any railway project depends on various factors like a quick land acquisition by the state government, forest clearance, shifting of infringing utilities (both underground and overground) and statutory clearances from various authorities, among others.
“In the overall interest of the nation and to ensure that projects are completed on time without cost overruns, a lot of monitoring is done in railways at various levels,” he said, adding that the railways has adopted the system of providing incentives in the form of a bonus to private contractors who complete the work before schedule.