Northeast railway projects face delay
Agartala: Due to lack of funds, several national railway projects in southern Assam, Tripura and other northeastern states would be delayed by a year, an official said here Saturday. "Railway officials at a meeting here told Tripura government (officials) that the gauge conversion works, extension of railway lines in southern Assam, Tripura and other northeastern states would be delayed by a year due to scarcity of funds," a Tripura official told reporters. Quoting the railway officials, he said: "Now the gauge conversion works between Lumding (200 km north of Assam's main city of Guwahati)-Agartala, Agartala-Sabroom (in southern Tripura) railway extension and other railway projects would be completed in March 2015, instead of March 2014." The foundation stone for conversion of Lumding-Agartala metre-gauge track to broad-gauge was laid by then prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda in January 1996.
The cost of the project has now mounted to Rs.2,800 crore from Rs.648 crore in 1996. The broad-gauge railway line from Guwahati passes through Lumding (in Assam's Nagaon district) which connects Tripura's capital Agartala and parts of Manipur, Mizoram and southern Assam with the rest of India by a single 109-year-old metre-gauge railway track. Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey said the gauge conversion work had started in 1996 beyond Lumding and Prime Minister Manmohan singh had declared it along with other nine projects as a national project many years back but progress of work is very slow due to various problems, including funds crisis and law and order in the region.
A meeting between the Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, North East Frontier Railway (NFR) Lumding Divisional Manager Rakesh Goel and Chief Administrative Officer A.S. Garur was held here Saturday to review the on-going railway projects in the region. According to the Tripura government official, the NFR officials told the meeting that a two-day meeting of the steering committee of the officials of India and Bangladesh would be held in Dhaka May 21-22 to expedite the work to set up a railway link between Tripura capital Agartala and Bangladesh's southeastern city of Akhaurah.
India and Bangladesh had signed a memorandum of understanding on Feb 16 in Dhaka to set up the new railway link between the two countries. At a cost of Rs.271 crore, India will build a 15-km railway track linking Agartala with Akhaura which is an important railway junction connected to the Chittagong international port, resource-rich Sylhet and Dhaka. Out of the 15-km rail line, 5-km of track falls in the Indian territory and the remaining in Bangladesh. Tripura chief minister requested the railway officials to accelerate the gauge conversion, new railway line set up works after managing the funds from the central government.