Bimalgarh Jn (BUF): The Bimlagarh-Talcher railway line which was approved during Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime in 2003 and moved at a slow pace during the UPA-I and II rule, received a push with Union Minister Jual Oram taking up the project with the Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.
As per the Pink Book, in 2015-16 Railway Budget Rs 182.5 crore was sanctioned to East Coast Railway (ECoR) for the ongoing rail line project against around Rs 200 crore sanctioned between 2005 and 2014.
Yet, early completion of the long-awaited project remains uncertain in the wake of delay in land acquisition and forest land diversion.
The project was sanctioned in 2003-04 at an estimated cost of Rs 810.88 crore to lay 154 kms new rail line. Well-placed sources in ECoR said of the total 1864 acres required, including 364 acres of forest land, only 331 acres could be acquired till now. At present, earth and bridge construction works are underway on the 25 kms stretch from Talcher side with a projection to complete laying of tracks on 20 kms stretch by June, 2017.
Of the total 10 major bridges, three are ready and work is in progress for three others, while rest four bridges are yet to be taken up. Of 52 minor bridges two have been completed and of 14 road under bridges (RUBs) two RUBs are ready.
The new railway line, which will partly cover Sundargarh district along with Deogarh, Keonjhar, Angul and Dhenkanal districts, would have 13 stations. Land acquisition in other districts would be looked into at later stages.
Meanwhile, general secretary, Rail Users’ Association, AC Baral said importance of the proposed rail route was felt in early 1970s and approved in 2003 by Vajpayee Government but given the present state of affairs, the cost may overrun to above Rs 1500 crore and take another decade.
The existing Rourkela-Bimlagarh link presently caters to the mineral transportation needs from the Bonai sub-division of Sundargarh district. Ironically, for decades mineral transportation from Sundargarh and adjacent Keonjhar districts to Paradip and elsewhere is being undertaken via the surface route, which is both time and cost consuming.
The proposed Bimlagarh-Talcher rail link, which envisages the shortest possible rail connectivity between the Steel City and Bhubaneswar via Sambalpur and Talcher, would shorten the distance by 116 km. Currently, passengers have to cover a distance of 426 kms to reach the Capital city.
On completion, the new route would also pave the way for running new trains between the two cities and significantly boost mineral transportation.
Meanwhile, Oram attributed the delay to previous lack of will on the part of UPA Government and failure of Odisha Government to acquire land. He said “I have spoken to the Railway Minister about expediting all pending railway projects in Odisha and there is no dearth of funds.”
In a scathing attack, Oram said “While Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is oblivious of ground realities, baseless statements are coming from the Odisha Government on railway projects.”