Growth in Transportation of Goods items strengthening NFR coffers

GUWAHATI: Growth in transportation of various items, including food grain and mineral oil, as well as rise in prices of some commodities in the markets has brought dividends for the Maligaon-headquartered Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), with the zone’s year-on-year cumulative revenue earnings from freight traffic witnessing an increase during the first half of the current fiscal.

NFR’s revenue earnings from freight traffic on originating basis went up to Rs 609.35 crore during the April 1 to September 30 period this year, compared to Rs 594.10 crore in the year-ago period, resulting in a growth of 2.57 per cent.

During the period under review, the commodity-wise freight traffic of the NFR on originating basis also went up by 2.78 per cent annually to 4.81 million tonnes (MT) from 4.68 MT in the comparative period of 2016-17.

The increase in freight traffic and the resultant earnings have happened despite the fact that rail traffic from the NFR zone to the rest of the country remained snapped for as long as three weeks in August this year due to massive floods in eastern Bihar.

In the first half of the current financial year (2017-18), the NFR earned Rs 62.49 crore from transportation of 0.30 MT of coal compared to Rs 52.43 crore from transportation of 0.29 MT of coal in the same period of the last fiscal.

Its earnings from other major components like container service and ‘other goods’ also went up on an annual basis.

NFR earned Rs 14.62 crore from transportation of 0.05 MT of container service during the first half of this fiscal as against Rs 13.67 crore from transportation of 0.04 MT of the product in the year-ago period.

Similarly, its earnings from ‘other goods’ went up to Rs 103 crore by transportation of 1.53 MT of such items, compared to Rs 75.96 crore from transportation of 1.25 MT of ‘other goods’ during the first six months of 2016-17.

The zone earned Rs 184.17 crore from transportation of 1.50 MT of mineral oil (petroleum oil and lubricants) during the first half of this fiscal.

In addition, it earned Rs 172.54 crore from transportation of 0.67 MT of food grain, Rs 6.54 crore from 0.11 MT of fertilizers, Rs 17.43 crore from 0.20

MT of cement and Rs 48.46 crore by transporting 0.45 MT of raw materials for steel plants.

Overall, in the first half of the current fiscal, the Indian Railways’ cumulative revenue earnings from freight traffic on originating basis also jumped by over eight per cent on an annual basis to Rs 52,414 crore, while its commodity-wise freight traffic also registered a growth of over five per cent to 559.16 MT.

It is noteworthy that of the 17 zonal railways, as many as 12 registered a growth in the earnings from freight traffic during the first half of the current fiscal.

Railway officials said one of the reasons for the growth registered by NFR this year is the low base.

They added that freight traffic and earnings from it can receive further boost in the NFR zone as work on the double tracking has been taken up and railway services are being extended to remote parts of the north-eastern states.

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NFR aims to make Northeast Frontier Railway stand tall, literally

GUWAHATI: Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) seems determined to make Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of making the Northeast a link between mainland India and Southeast Asia a reality.

After making the Northeast host India’s longest river bridge – Bhupen Hazarika Setu over Lohit river linking Dhola with Sadiya in Tinsukia district of Assam that was inaugurated by the Prime Minister in May this year –NFR is now set to make the region even prouder by making it host the world’s highest bridge.

The Railways is now coming up with the world’s tallest rail girder bridge over river Irang near Imphal on the new Jiribam-Imphal broad gauge (BG) line in Manipur. To measure 141 metres in height, it will eclipse the current world record holder Mala-Rijeka viaduct in Montenegro in Europe (139 metres) when completed.

To measure 602 metres in length, the bridge is being constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 290 crore. Already 80% of pile foundation work is complete. And two firms – Simplex Infrastructures Ltd and Braithwaite Burn & Jessop Construction Company Limited – have been engaged by NFR to execute the project.

The Railways is also mulling to develop the bridge site as a tourist spot in co-ordination with Manipur government due to its scenic location and tall piers. And what will make the entire project a real treat to watch is the panoramic view that it promises to offer to railway travellers. For, after meandering its way through a mountain, the line will pass over the tallest bridge before entering an 11.5-km tunnel immediately at the other end and then reach Tupul railway station.

And according to sources, not just the bridge (codenamed bridge no. 164), the entire 111-km Jiribam-Imphal BG rail line will test to the limit the technical prowess of NFR. The new railway line will have 37 tunnels with a total length of 56 km, besides 22 big bridges.

The location of the bridge is in a very high seismic zone and heavy wind speeds have required adoption of state-of-the-art design and construction techniques. Site specific earthquake studies have been conducted and detailed model studies in wind tunnels have been performed to ensure a safe and sustainable design.

The total estimated cost of the entire Jiribam-Imphal BG rail line is Rs 9,657 crore. NFR has set a target of 2020 for completion of the project.

NFR’s Chief Engineer (Construction) A. Saibaba told that the project is very challenging, but added that when completed it will be one of the most challenging projects undertaken by Indian Railways.

He said NFR is trying to meet the target of 2020 for completing the project and that 11 km of the 111-km line has already been completed.

Transportation between India and Bangladesh – The Lifeline, so near, so far

Prime Minister Narendra Modi flags off Bandhan Express in New Delhi on Thursday. Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee join via video conferencing.

DHAKA/KOLKATA: Last week, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina, and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, flagged off the Kolkata-Khulna Bandhan Express, to follow in the tracks of the erstwhile Barisal Express, which was stopped during the 1965 war with Pakistan. The weekly service, which will start rolling on Thursday, will cross the international border at Petrapol outside Bongaon in North 24-Parganas district, and will be the second train to Bangladesh after the Kolkata-Dhaka Maitree Express. Given how they are juxtaposed geographically and culturally, the two countries, and especially India’s Northeast, stand to gain enormously from closer road and rail links. Efforts have, however, progressed slowly.

Agartala-Dhaka-Kolkata, 910 km

Service on the 490 km Agartala-Dhaka route began in September 2003, and ran irregularly until January 2015, when it was stopped for security reasons. Service was restarted in May 2015 on an extended Agartala-Dhaka-Kolkata route (910 km). The Tripura Road Transport Corporation, Shyamali Paribahan Ltd of Bangladesh, and West Bengal Road Transport Corporation ran two weekly trips each, making it a daily service barring Sunday. But this service, too, has become irregular.

Guwahati-Shillong-Dhaka, 450 km

Formally inaugurated in December 2015, but service did not continue.

TRAIN Kolkata-Dhaka Maitree Express

In 2008, rail links disrupted by hostility with erstwhile East Pakistan were reestablished, the 375 km route crossing the border at Gede on the Indian side and Darshana on the Bangladesh side. The Maitree Express runs six days a week, and was, until the November 9 inauguration of the Bandhan Express, the only rail link with Bangladesh.

Agartala-Dhaka service

No seamless service between Agartala and Dhaka, but people from Tripura cross the border at the Integrated Check Post on Agartala’s outskirts and take a tempo or taxi to the railway station at Akhaura in Bangladesh to catch a train to Dhaka. A 15-km line between Agartala and Akhaura being built by the Indian Railways is set for completion by the end of 2018. Agartala has recently got a direct train to Sealdah (Kolkata) via Badarpur, Haflong, Lumding, Guwahati and New Jalpaiguri, a 37-hour journey that an Agartala-Dhaka-Kolkata train can cover in less than a third of this time.

Siliguri-Parbatipur link

A line links Siliguri in North Bengal to Parbatipur in northern Bangladesh, by which India sent a 42-wagon consignment of high speed diesel manufactured by Numaligarh Refinery in Assam in March 2017. But there is no regular goods train movement on this route, and passenger services are unlikely soon, given trans-border crimes and infiltration in the North Bengal sector.

BOAT

Kolkata-Dibrugarh waterway through Dhaka and Guwahati, started in 1844 by the East India Company and shut after the 1965 war, was recently reopened. Cargo vessels have been occasionally plying through Bangladesh under a Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade. Heavy machinery and equipment for the Numaligarh refinery and Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh have been transported by this route.

In 2011, heavy over-dimensional consignments of turbines and other machinery for the Palatana power project in Tripura were shipped through Ashuganj port in Bangladesh. When the Lumding-Badarpur railway was shut for gauge conversion last year, India moved foodgrains to Tripura by waterways through Bangladesh, saving on both time and transportation costs.

ROAD TRANSPORT

Kolkata-Dhaka-Northeast seamless cargo

In November 2015, seamless road cargo transport between Kolkata and Agartala through Bangladesh was tried out successfully under the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) for Regulation of Passenger, Personnel and Cargo Vehicular Traffic, signed by these countries in June that year. Regular services are yet to start.

NORTHEAST, THE BIGGEST BENEFICIARY

The creation of East Pakistan — and subsequently, Bangladesh — significantly increased the distance between the Northeast and the Indian mainland. Until 1947, a train to Guwahati from Kolkata took hardly 12 hours. Today, despite increased speeds, the journey takes at least 18 hours by the fastest train, while a normal train — such as the Kamrup Express — takes almost 24 hours through Siliguri or New Jalpaiguri.

Before Partition, people travelled from Guwahati to Kolkata via Lalmonirhat, in the Bangladesh district close to where the Brahmaputra crosses the border. Trains between Assam and Kolkata through East Pakistan stopped in 1947; trains between West Bengal and East Pakistan stopped after the 1965 war.

Six Village Councils on NFR reiterates their collective decision to prevent construction works for Dimapur-Zubza rail line

DIMAPUR: Six village councils – Dhansiripar, Zutovi, Pimla, Khemnok, Razaphe Basa and Shokhuvi – have reiterated their collective decision to prevent construction works for “Nagaland rail project” (Dimapur-Zubza railway connection).

The councils issued a joint press release on Sunday informing that even as the “complete stoppage of works of the Nagaland rail project” by the six villages in their respective jurisdiction enters the 12th day, the state government has remained silent.

The silence of the authorities, they stated, was ‘becoming a big question’. according to the statement, several attempts by the councils to meet the chief minister as well as the chief secretary have not been successful till date.

“It was either denial or suppression of the demand for review of the discrepancy in the payment of land compensation. Mention may be made that the Railway authority through a written (sic) stated to have paid Rs. 25/-psf and the state govt. release Rs. 3.75 p over and above 25/- which is intriguing.

Despite having already a rate fixed by the cabinet the six villages were paid the lowest rate…therefore the stoppage of ongoing rail project works would be continued indefinitely as resolved which should not be considered as against the rail connectivity process”.

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Northeast Frontier Railway to standardise Rakes to ease operational constraint

GUWAHATI: To ease the operational constraints and ensure better availability of rakes for the running of trains on time, the NF Railway is going for standardisation of rakes, informed CPRO/NF Railway Pranav Jyoti Sharma in a press note.

“By this, any train can be made ready for departure even when its incoming link rake is delayed for some reason or the other. Every incoming rake requires a time of at least 7 hours for thorough inspection and cleaning of the pit line. If the incoming rake is late, an identical rake of the same composition can be used to run the service. Thus punctuality can be ensured” detailed the press note received here.

For the interest of rail users as well as for maintaining punctuality of trains, six rakes of train no.15960/15969 Dibrugarh-Howrah Express, 12526-12525 Dibrugarh-Coimbatore Express and 15906-15905 Dibrugarh-Kanyakumari Express with composition of 2 nos.SLR, 5 nos. General second class, 1 no.AC two tier, 3 nos. AC three tier, 11 nos. Sleeper class and 1 no. pantry car coaches; while four rakes of train no. 15903-15904 Dibrugarh-Chandigarh Express,15930-15929 Dibrugarh-Madras Express and 15933-15934 Dibrugarh-Amritsar Express with the composition of 2 nos. SLR, 2 nos. General second class, 1 no.AC two tier, 4 nos. AC three tier, 13 nos. sleeper class and 1 no. pantry car coaches, Dibrugarh based trains have already been standardised.

Four rakes of Guwahati-based train no. 15648/15647 Guwahati-Lokmanya Tilak Terminus Express, 15630/15629 Guwahati-Madras Express and 15646-15645 Guwahati- Lokmanya Tilak Terminus Express with the composition of 2 nos.SLR, 2 nos. General second class, 1 no.AC two tier, 4 nos. AC three tier, 13 nos. sleeper class and 1 no. Pantry car coaches as well as two rakes of train no.15624/15623 Kamakhya-Bhagat ki kothi Express and 15655/15656 Kamakhya- Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra Express with the composition of 2 nos.Chair car, 6 nos.General second class, 6 nos.Sleeper class , 2nos. AC two tier , 4 nos. AC three tier coaches; along with 15620/1519 Kamakhya-Gaya and 15621/15622 Kamakhya-Anand Vihar Expresswith the composition of 2 nos. SLR, 2 nos.General second class , 1 no.AC two tier , 2 nos.AC three tier and 8 nos. Sleeper class coaches have been standardised.

In the next phase it has been notified to standardise six rakes of Guwahati-based train no. 12505/12506 Guwahati-Anand Vihar Express, 15651-15652, 15653/15654 Guwahati-Jammu Tawi Express with the composition of 2 nos. SLR, 2nos. general second class, 1 no. AC two tier,2 nos. AC three tier , 8 nos. Sleeper class coaches together with four rakes of train no. 12508/12507, 12516/12515 Guwahati-Trivandrum Express, 15636/15635 Guwahati-Okha Express and 12514/12513 Guwahati-Secunderabad Express with the composition of 2 nos.SLR, 2 nos.General second class, 1 no.AC two tier, 4 nos. AC three tier, 13 nos. sleeper class and 1 no. Pantry car coaches.

In addition to these, the press note stated that Kamakhya-based two rakes of train no. 15668/15667 Kamakhya-Gandhidham Express, 22512/22513 Kamakhya- Lokmanya Tilak Terminus Express have been notified for standardisation with composition of 2 nos.SLR, 2 nos.General second class , 1no. AC two tier , 4 nos.AC three tier ,10 nos. sleeper class and 1 no.Pantry car coaches. Similarly, two rakes of train no. 15640/15643 Kamakhya-Puri Express and 82506/82505 Kamakhya-Pune Express are also notified for standardisation with the composition of 2 nos.SLR, 4 nos. General second class , 1 no.AC two tier , 2 n AC three tier and 8 nos. sleeper class coaches.

Assam yet to respond to Railways proposal

GUWAHATI: The Indian Railways has proposed to jointly work with the Assam government to increase inflow of tourists to the State by operating special tourist trains.“The Railway Board has proposed to operate tourist trains in the pattern of Astha trains in the northeastern region by the Northeast Frontier Railway as per itinerary to be fixed in consultation with the Assam State Tourism Corporation (ATDC),” Pranav Jyoti Sharma, Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), told.

He said that the railway authorities have held consultations with senior ATDC officials, including the corporation’s managing director in this regard. “It was decided that the ATDC will take up the responsibilities of marketing the off-board facilities. The final response from the ATDC is awaited. Once the issue is finalised, such type of trains can be made operational,” Sharma said.

Recently, the NFR received an offer from the ATDC for providing accommodation in trains of some identified routes. “The railway authorities have appreciated the plan and agreed to provide accommodation in trains subject to the Railways’ terms and conditions,” Sharma said.

However, sources in the Indian Railways said that a lot more could be done to tap the resources of the Indian Railways, the largest public carrier of the country, to boost inward tourist flow into the State.

Some officials said on the condition of anonymity that while the ATDC and the tourism department have made some efforts to tie up with the Railways to send tourists from the State to other regions of India, not much has been done with regard to bringing tourists from other parts of the country to Assam.

“The Indian Railways by itself cannot do much until and unless some concrete proposals come from the ATDC or the State tourism department. There is potential for inbound tourist flow. The Railways is more than willing to explore any proposals coming from the State tourism department in this regard,” said an official.

He added that the Railways and the IRCTC, on their own, have operated a number of Bharat Darshan special tourist trains to Guwahati from other parts of the country. “There is big demand to visit sites like Kamakhya and Kaziranga,” the official added.

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NFR registers double-digit dip in Revenue Earnings

GUWAHATI: Prolonged disruption in rail services to and from the rest of the country due to massive floods in eastern Bihar during August last has affected the finances of the Maligaon-headquartered Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), with the zone registering a double-digit fall in overall revenues on an annual basis during the first half of the current fiscal. However, earnings from the goods segment went up during the period under review.

Latest data shows that the total approximate gross earnings of the NFR on originating basis during the April-September period of 2017-18 stood at Rs 1,550.94 crore as compared to Rs 1,802.65 crore during the corresponding period of the last financial year. This amounted to a decline of 13.96 per cent in total earnings for the railway zone year-on-year.

The NFR’s passenger revenue during the first six months of the current fiscal was Rs 742.04 crore as against Rs 807.26 crore in the April-September period of 2016-17, registering a fall of 8.08 per cent.

Revenue from other coaching also went down by 9.18 per cent annually during the April-September period this year to Rs 108.74 crore. The earning from other coaching was Rs 119.73 crore in the first half of the last fiscal.

Similarly, sundry earnings of the NFR in the first six months of 2017-18 went down by 76.87 per cent to a mere Rs 64.64 crore as against Rs 279.42 crore in the year ago period.

However, earnings from goods on originating basis increased by 6.59 per cent to Rs 635.52 crore in the period under review. The NFR’s goods revenue has stood at Rs 596.24 crore in the same period of the last financial year.

Official sources attributed the annual growth in goods earnings to the low base.

Interestingly, the NFR was among the only six of the total 17 zones of the Indian Railways to have registered a year-on-year decline in its gross earnings during the first half of the current fiscal. The other five zones which have performed badly are the Eastern Railway (Kolkata), the Northern Railway (Delhi), the Southern Railway (Chennai), the South Western Railway (Hubli) and the Western Railway (Mumbai).

The total gross earnings on originating basis of the Indian Railways as a whole increased by over 5.8 per cent on an annual basis to Rs 81,686 crore in the first half of this fiscal.

Meanwhile, the approximate number of passengers booked in the NFR zone touched 51.04 million during the period from April 1 to September 30 this year. This is an increase of 4.21 per cent over the figure of 48.98 million recorded during the corresponding period of last year.

Commenting on the latest numbers, officials said the Bihar floods had severed railway link between the NFR zone and the rest of the country for over three weeks during August and it is the main reason for the poor earnings. Officials further said with services back on track, the revenue figures are expected to get better during the second half of this fiscal.

They added that expansion of railway services to remote parts of the North-east as well as progress in double-tracking will boost both passenger and goods traffic in the region, thus helping the NFR further augment its earnings.

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Railway Board set 2020 deadline for Rail link to all Northeast Capitals and Kashmir with Train

NEW DELHI / GUWAHATI: Railways Minister Piyush Goyal today set 2020 deadline for completion of Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail line, which has jumped several deadlines, leading to massive cost escalation notwithstanding “strategic significance” of the project. He announced launch of “glass top coaches” between Katra-Jammu and “specially designed coaches” between Banihal-Baramulla to promote tourism in Jammu and Kashmir.

In a series of tweets after meeting Railways Minister Piyush Goyal in the Union capital this afternoon, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti announced that Goyal has assured completion of Katra-Banihal railway track by 2020, which was the only missing link between Jammu-Srinagar-Baramulla railway line and would link Kashmir valley with rest of the country by train.

“Met Railways Minister Piyush Goyal to discuss various issues regarding railway projects in Jammu and Kashmir. He assured completion of Katra-Banihal railway track by 2020,” Mehbooba tweeted after meeting Goyal, who had taken charge of the Railways Ministry last month from Suresh Prabhu.

Goyal’s assurance for completion of Katra-Banihal rail link, which is one of the toughest rail line in the world, was significant as there had been reports that tough terrain in Pir Panchal mountains, where a number of bridges and tunnels had to be constructed for the railway line, might lead to delay in the project.

On Mehbooba’s demand for extension of rail line up to Kupwara in Kashmir and Rajouri-Poonch in Jammu, the Railways Minister agreed in principle to the demand and informed the Chief Minister that preliminary survey on the two projects has already been completed. The project is now being examined for funding in the Central Government.

The Railways Minister issued on spot instructions to the Ministry officials for a review of work on Katra-Banihal section to ensure that 2020 deadline set by him for completion of the project is met with and there was no further delay as the project has already jumped several deadlines, leading to massive cost escalation.

The rail link, apart from helping the people of Kashmir to take rail route across the country and help tourists from various States to reach directly to Srinagar and Baramulla, was also of great strategic importance as the Valley remained cut off due to landslides on the National Highway during Monsoon and snowfall season.

The then Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government had in 2002 declared Jammu-Srinagar rail link as national project and fixed August 15, 2007 as deadline for its completion. However, since then several deadlines were set for completion of the project but all of them were missed.

Fifty-three kilometers Jammu-Udhampur, 25 kilometers Udhampur-Katra and 119 kilometers Banihal-Baramulla links of Jammu-Srinagar-Baramulla line have already been completed and were functional. Katra-Banihal is the only missing link between Jammu-Baramulla.

Goyal announced that Railways would run cold store containers from Jammu to other parts of the country to ferry horticulture produce from the State. For the purpose, the Secretary, Horticulture would pursue the matter with the Railway authorities.

Mehbooba sought running of more trains from Jammu to Mumbai, Kolkata and Ahmedabad to get more tourists to the State. Goyal informed the Chief Minister that the Railways have started a weekly train-Humsafar-from Kolkata to Jammu in view of the tourist rush from the area.

Goyal said the Secretary, Tourism and Member, Traffic of the Railway Board would jointly explore the possibilities of running more trains from different States to Jammu.

Goyal assured all support from his Ministry to boost tourism in the State. He informed the Chief Minister that specially designed trains would soon chug from Jammu to Katra while as such trains would be introduced in Kashmir from next spring.

Introduction of ‘glass top coaches’ between Jammu-Katra and ‘specially designed coaches’ between Banihal-Baramulla to promote tourism was agreed upon in Mehbooba-Goyal meeting, sources said.

The Chief Minister also raised other issues like giving employment to locals by IRCON, a halt station at Naina Batpora, expediting work on other halt stations on the Banihal-Baramulla railway line and transfer back of land at Banihal for constructing a stadium there.

The Union Minister assured the Chief Minister of a positive approach and substantive action by his Ministry on the demands raised by the Chief Minister.

CONNECTIVITY TO ALL NORTHEAST CAPITALS BY 2020: SAYS GM/NFR

Railways is giving topmost priority for development of infrastructure, including taking up project for electrification and expansion of its network in the North Eastern States.Chahatey Ram, General Manager of the Maligaon-headquartered Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) told that in the last Budget, a number of works had been sanctioned for Assam and the North Eastern States.

“They include Sivasagar-Jorhat new line (62 km), Salona-Khumtai new line (99 km), Tezpur-Silghat new line, which includes construction of a new double-line bridge at Silghat. Final location surveys of all these projects are in progress. Moreover, doubling of mainline from New Jalpaiguri to Lumding has been sanctioned,” Ram said.

He added, “Railway electrification has also been sanctioned from Malda/Katihar to Dibrugarh. The balance section of NFR has also been proposed for electrification.”

He said that the NFR zone is an active theatre for implementation of the Central Government’s ‘Act East’ policy.

“As such, work is in progress for connectivity to all State capitals of the North East by 2020,” said the NFR General Manager.

He said that the debate regarding bifurcation of the NFR, as espoused by some organisations, is futile.

“It is clear that even with the present zonal jurisdiction, Assam and the North East is not at any disadvantage and the region is receiving new thrust in sanction of projects and other facilities. The present spread of the zone is such that it covers the strategically important ‘Chicken’s Neck’ connecting the North East to the rest of India.

“Even after NFR spreads deep into all the North Eastern States, creation of a new zone will lead to a situation where administrative control over the railway assets of the crucial supply line, their development and maintenance will lie with another zone, which will be detrimental to the self sufficiency of NFR,” Ram said.

He said that in the event of creation of a new zone for the North Eastern States, there would be multiple operational constraints in the movement of trains to and from this region.

“All goods and passenger trains are interchanged in zonal boundaries. If a separate zone for the North Eastern States is created, all long-distance trains will encounter greater number of interchange points, which will result in avoidable delay leading to increase in travel time. This will cause unnecessary hardship to the passengers. As far as the long-term interests of this region are concerned, the present jurisdictional arrangement is favourable. No useful purpose will be served by carving out a separate zone exclusively for the North Eastern States,” said the NFR General Manager.

Asked if NFR authorities will request the Railway Board to consider any proposal favourably for bifurcation of NFR in case such demands are received in future from any quarter, Ram replied in the negative.

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Heritage tag unlikely for Mahur-Harangajao Hill Track

HAFLONG: A heritage is on the verge of sinking into oblivion. The much-anticipated heritage tag for the Mahur-Harangajao section of the now-abandoned Silchar-Lumding metre gauge track that had every ingredient to be developed as a heritage track is unlikely to materialise, with the Railway Board turning down a proposal from the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) to that effect.

“We had submitted a proposal to Railway Board for turning a stretch of 30-odd km into a heritage track in view of its antiquity, tourism potential and local sentiment. But we did not receive any positive response from the Board,” NFR sources told.

Sources added that nor was there any formal proposal from the State government for converting the track into a heritage line.

Acknowledged as an engineering marvel, the 113-year-old metre gauge line built by the British during the last decade of the 19th century traversed a distance of 221 km – much of it through the rugged mountainous landscape of the Barail range in Dima Hasao district. Enhancing its appeal were as many as 37 tunnels along the spectacular thickly-forested and undulating terrain. The track was closed down on October 1, 2014, making way for the now-operational broad gauge track.

The heritage and adventure worth of the track is further testified to by the writings of acclaimed travel writers like Bill Aitken who rated the Silchar-Lumding line higher than similar high-altitude tracks in India. Aitken in his Travels by a Lesser Line had this to say about the track “…the most scenic part of the journey is the ascent from Lumding to Haflong Hill, 116 kms in six hours… the total effect is of impenetrability and one is filled with admiration for the original builders of the line. For those brought up on the notion that the Ooty climb – also a metre gauge – is the most impressive mountain line, the ride to Haflong will prove a sensational journey of discovery.”

Once a hub of activities, the Lower Haflong Railway Station now wears a wretched look, with three steam engines lying uncared for by the track. The dilapidated platform, offices and quarters have turned into relics of a bygone era, with stray animals and vagabonds being their occasional occupants. Another casualty has been the business that flourished around the station, with scores of shopkeepers and vendors now forced to down their shutters.

The local people have been dismayed with the dilly-dallying tactics of the Railways and the government over the issue of converting the short stretch into a heritage track. Initially, the Railways had assured retention of the track for its heritage value as also for local communication.

Even the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju had a couple of years back announced that the Railways agreed to the demand of the people to keep the Hill Queen Special, a metre-gauge train, running.

“It’s baffling why the Railways have gone back on their word to ply the heritage train. Some initial work had even started for the purpose. Aside their communication needs, the people of Dima Hasao share a sentimental relationship with this track. The tourism worth of the heritage train would have been immense but the Railways as well as the government has been totally insensitive to such prospects,” Anup Biswas, a Haflong-based senior journalist and activist who has been pressing for revival of the heritage train project, said, adding that local business would once again thrive if the line is reopened.

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Railway Board says no to Gohpur-Numaligarh Railway bridge on Rangiya Division

GUWAHATI: A railway bridge is not required at the proposed four-lane bridge to be constructed by the NHIDCL over the Brahmaputra between Gohpur and Numaligarh on the Rangiya Division of Northeast Frontier Railway, the Railway Board has said, citing proposals of two other railway bridges on the river – one between Silghat and Tezpur and another on the Jorhat-Gogamukh new line.The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways had sent an inception report of the Gohpur-Numaligarh four-lane bridge project to the Railways to explore the possibility of constructing a rail-cum-road bridge in the site as “an integrated structure”.

In a letter to the NHIDCL, the Railway Board said the Tezpur-Silghat new line has been sanctioned in the Pink Book (which details all the budgetary allotment in railway projects) of 2017-18, which includes a railway bridge on the Brahmaputra. “The NHIDCL’s Numaligarh-Gohpur bridge is 93 km upstream and therefore, it would not be desirable to modify the alignment of the Tezpur-Silghat line,” the board noted.

Moreover, the reconnaissance engineering-cum-survey (RET) has been sanctioned for the new Gogamukh-Jorhat line to connect Majuli and the Numaligarh-Gohpur bridge is 45 km downstream of the proposed railway bridge at the river island.

“Shifting of the alignment of the Rail Bridge to proposed location of Road Bridge across Brahmaputra will defeat the very purpose of the RET survey – connectivity of Majuli Island with Jorhat via a short route,” the letter stated.

Meanwhile, NHIDCL sources said once the State government gives the go-ahead after studying the inception report (the broad outline of the project), Louis Berger will start the work of preparing the DPR of the Numaligarh-Gohpur bridge. The four-lane bridge will be around 9-km long, with 10 km of approach roads on both sides.

Suresh Prabhu will be Remembered as Railway Minister who provided extensive Rail Connectivity to People of Northeast

Under Suresh Prabhu’s tenure as Union Minister of Railways, five Northeastern States were included in the Broad Gauge network and 29 new trains introduced
Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu, former Union Minister of Railways

GUWAHATI: History is proof that governments across party lines have often tried to find the answer to train accidents in the resignation of the railway minister – the latest example of this long practiced phenomena being Suresh Prabhu, former Union Minister of Railways. But for the people of the Northeastern region, the change of ministership of Suresh Prabhu, from Railways to Commerce and industry on September 3 is not a digestive item. Prabhu shall be remembered for delivering what no other Union Railway Minister could – a widened network of rail infrastructure to the people of the region.

In the last three years, the ministry under Prabhu was successful in including five northeastern states – Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura – to the broad gauge (BG) map of the country. As many as 29 new trains were introduced in the region in a span of just one year – 2016 to 2017.

Today, no metre gauge line exists in the northeastern states, thanks to conversion of over 900 kms of track to BG in the last three years. All the states of the region, except Sikkim, are now included in the BG network.

Many of these projects might have started during the UPA, Deve Gowda and Atal Bihari Vajpayee regimes but the ministry under Prabhu gave the much-needed push, thanks to which the projects, including those stranded for years, met completion or are near completion.

Look at Tripura. State capital Agartala saw a metre gauge (MG) track as lately as in October 2008, even though the MG line reached the state’s business hub Dharmanagar from Assam in 1964.

It was also during Prabhu’s term, in August 2016, that Tripura saw a foundation stone laid for the construction of the railway line connecting Agartala to Akhaura in Bangladesh, even though a pact to this effect was signed in January 2010 by the UPA government with the Sheikh Hasina regime.

Work is on in full swing in the 15-km stretch, which will not only be a part of the Trans Asian Railway Network but will substantially shorten the rail distance between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh – from the present 1,590 kms to 499 kms.

This rail link will connect Agartala to Ashuganj river port, via Akhaura, about 54 kms away. As per news reports quoting North Eastern Frontier Railway officials, the project is likely to be completed before the year turns.

Besides, the 114 km BG track from Silchar in Assam to Agartala and thereafter to the border town of Sabroom, from where the Chittagong port of Bangladesh is merely 75 kms away, is likely to completed by March 2019. Already, the track has reached Udaipur town of Tripura. The Silchar-Udaipur track has been operational since January 2017.

Thanks to the gauge conversion of the Silchar stretch, there are now three new BG trains from the Barak Valley of Assam, including Poorvottar Sampark Kranti Express, a direct train from Silchar to New Delhi, a decades-old demand of the people of that valley.

The other two trains, flagged off by Prabhu in February 2016, were the first freight trains from Badarpur in Assam to Jirania in Agartala, and to Jiribam in Manipur.

While the freight train from Badarpur to Jiribam helped include Manipur in the BG network, the one to Jirania came at a time when NH 8, Tripura’s only road route to the rest of India through Assam, was in shambles, thus leading to a crisis situation as hundreds of trucks remained stranded on it for months together. The goods train helped cart essential stuff to the state.

Work is presently on the 84 km long Jiribam-Tupul section of the railway project in Manipur and likely finish by 2018. Thereafter, the link will stretch to state capital Imphal. Though this project to lay railway track to Imphal began in 2004, barely 20% of the work was reportedly completed till 2014. Media reports say survey is on also to lay a railway line from Imphal to Moreh, a business town bordering Myanmar.

Mizoram entered the BG network in November 2014 when Modi inaugurated the 54 km long line from Kathahal (Assam) to Bhairabi, two kms within Mizoram. Since May 2016, a passenger train shuttles between Bhairabi and Silchar via Kathahal. Further work on laying lines from Bhairabi to Sairang, 20 km from Mizoram capital Aizawl, is underway and is said to be completed by March 2020.

In November 2014, Modi also flagged off the first BG train from Guwahati to Meghalaya’s Mendipathar, thus including that state too in the BG map of the country. Mendipathar in the North Garo Hills district is so far the state’s only railway station, like Jiribam is in Manipur. Though the route was approved in 2007, due to difficulty in land acquisition and huge opposition to the project as locals felt the rail service would bring ‘outsiders’ to their region (Such protest have been seen in Arunachal and some other parts of the northeast too), work began only in 2013.
Work is also presently on to lay a 21.5 km track from Tetelia to Byrnihat in Meghalaya’s Ri Bhoi district bordering Assam and is likely to be completed by next year. According to media reports, the survey work on the 108-km stretch of the proposed Byrnihat-Shillong railway project has reached near completion.

In February 2016, Modi inaugurated the first passenger train from Naharlagun, 10 km from Arunachal Pradesh’s capital Itanagar, to New Delhi via Guwahati. Since this past May 7, there has also been a Shatabdi service between Naharlgun and Guwahati, a vital means of communications for the people of the landlocked state.

With the commissioning of the Balipara to Bhalukpong line with gauge conversion, the state has also been provided the second BG connectivity during Prabhu’s tenure.

Also, in April this year, the railway ministry ordered final location survey for three proposed tracks in Arunachal – Bhalukpong-Tenga-Tawang (378 km), North Lakhimpur-Bame-Aalo-Silapathar (247.85 km) and Pasighat-Tezu-ParsuramKund-Rupai (227 km). The first one is certainly the most ambitious, which, if successful, can give a rail link to the mountainous India-China border in Tawang. The survey, being conducted by Northeast Frontier Railway, is expected to be completed by October 2020.

The railway ministry has also sanctioned reconnaissance engineering-cum-traffic survey for eight new lines in the state for a total length of about 625 km.

While Nagaland has been a part of the BG network since 1997 after the MG track in Dimapur was converted, in August 2016, Prabhu laid the foundation stone in the town to extend the track for another 88 kms to reach Zubza, situated 16 km from the state capital Kohima.

Though Sikkim is the only northeastern state to not have rail connectivity yet, there is now progress in the project to link Sevok in West Bengal to Rangpo, a stretch of 44 kms, after the Supreme Court gave a go ahead to it last year. Though the foundation stone for the project was laid by the then vice president Hamid Ansari in 2009, it ran into legal trouble due to environmental concerns as the line would pass by Mahananda elephant sanctuary.

In coming times, this railway line is likely to reach Nathu-La on the India-China border.

Quite a few times during his visit to the region, the former railway minister had reiterated to the media that all the capitals of the northeastern states would have rail connectivity with the national capital by 2020. Hope the new railway minister Piyush Goyal fulfils this unfinished agenda. For clearly, New Delhi needs to continue this ‘Act’ in the northeast, for the region to be truly able to play its part to make real the ambitious policy of the Modi government – Act East.

Passenger Train Services to start from Sept 3: N.F.Railway

GUWAHATI: While goods train service have resumed service from August 29 after restoration of Bridge no 133, work is going on in full swing at site for completion of balance work and further relaxation of speed.

A press note from the NF Railway informed that as only “UP” line has been restored and traffic in Telta – Sudhani block section is plying at restricted speed of 10 KMPH, authorities have decided to go in for gradual introduction of passenger services from September 3. (see table for list of trains)

In other news, the Railway Protection Force has rescued more than 214 minor children from January – July this year.

A press note from the NF Railway informed that during the period from January to July, 2017 RPF detected 75 cases of theft of stolen railway property. 93 criminals were arrested and stolen property worth Rs. 9, 58,845/- were recovered.

The RPF arrested and prosecuted as many as 94,949 offenders under various sections of Railway Act and fine to the tune of Rs. 5, 57, 74,905/- was realised during the period from January to July, 2017. During this period, the RPF apprehended 20 touts and prosecuted them under section 143 of Railway Act.

Further, contraband goods worth Rs. 3, 20, 43,549/- were recovered on 79 occasions with arrest of 27 criminals during this period.

More over during this period 18 criminals involved in drugging and looting of passengers and 18 criminals involved in theft of passengers belongings were also arrested and handed over to GRP for further action.

Also, during the current year, the RPF also recovered huge quantity of explosive, gelatin sticks, detonator, fuse wire at Kamakhya and Bihara railway stations with arrest of two persons. Another person was arrested along with a revolver. All arrested persons were handed over to GRP after registering cases.

More recently, the RPF also distributed food and clothes to flood victims of Lakhimpur and Karimganj districts of Assam.

The Tool Free RPF Helpline no. 182 is functioning round the clock and providing facility to travelling passenger in lodging complains and seeking assistance without breaking their journey, the press note added.

Meanwhile, a massive Cleanliness drive over all the five divisions of NF Railway i.e Katihar, Alipurduar ,Rangia, Lumding & Tinsukia including Maligaon Head Qrs, involving more than 665 officers and staff started from August 16 as a part of countrywide “Swachhta Pakhwada” being organised in Indian Railways concluded today.

The theme of the Swachhta Pakhwada observed by the N F Railway was to spread swachhta awareness and implementation in Railway premises including Railway colonies and trains with a focus on role of Railway Officers, staff and their family members in taking sanitation initiatives.

The main objective of the Swachhta Pakhwada has been ‘cleanliness, inside out’ – to sensitize and ensure good health and hygiene by providing employee their family and rail users with awareness on clean and safe environment, personal health, hygiene and good practices including hand washing on cleanliness, in order to create safe, healthy, clean and green environment.

Cong-Led Govt in Meghalaya not interested in Railway Projects: MOSR

SHILLONG: Union minister of state for Railways, Rajen Gohain on Wednesday said that the Congress-led government in Meghalaya had not taken interest in expansion of the railway network to the hill state in reference to halted work on the railway project to connect Byrnihat in Ri-Bhoi district of Meghalaya.

Speaking to the media here on the sidelines of a programme, Gohain said the new non-Congress government which would be formed in Meghalaya next year after the election would take keen interest in developing railways in the state.

He asserted that the present government in Meghalaya did not understand the importance of railways in the state.

He said the railways besides providing better connectivity would create large scale employment opportunities, facilitate better tourists flow to the state.

It may be mentioned that the work on the railway project to connect Byrnihat in Meghalaya with Tetelia in Assam has been halted by the government following strong objection from the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU).

Railways resume goods train services for North Eastern states

NEW DELHI: Rail services for transporting goods to the flood-ravaged northeastern region resumed today while passenger train services are expected to restart from September 3, the railway ministry said.

Due to floods in Bihar, West Bengal and Assam, the rail link with the northeastern states was disrupted since August 12.

All trains between the northeastern states and the rest of the country pass through New Jalpaiguri in north Bengal and Katihar division in Bihar.

“The rail route connecting North Eastern region has been opened for goods traffic today. Member, traffic, reviewed the position with the General Manager and Board officials and directed that rakes loaded with essential commodities for NE be moved on priority.

“Passenger trains are expected to start from September 3,” the railway ministry said in a series of tweets.

According to officials, the floods caused extensive damage to rail tracks, bridges, culverts, communication systems and other infrastructure, with the worst affected being between Sudhani and Telta in Kishanganj district under Katihar division of the North Frontier Railways.

If goods trains pass on the repaired tracks without facing any problem, then passenger train services will be resumed, officials said.

They said it is not clear how much revenue loss the railways has incurred so far, but it had lost an estimated Rs 150 crore in the first seven days of the deluge.

Heavy rains had washed away Bridge 133 between the Telta and Sudhani stations in the Katihar division of the NFR, a zonal railways spokesperson said.

More than 15 lakh passengers could not avail train services connecting the northeastern states and north Bengal with the rest of the country owing to the disruption, he said.

A total of 821 mail and express trains were cancelled during the period due to the damage caused to the tracks at several places in the Katihar and Alipurduar divisions.

As many as 484 passenger trains were also cancelled during the period.

Trains Cancelled due to Heavy Rains in NFR, Derailment of Duranto Exp and Law and Order Situation in NR

Due to heavy rains and water flow over the tracks in North Frontier Railway the following trains are cancelled as detailed below:-

Trains Cancelled: Train No. 22611 Chennai Central – New Jalpaiguri Express is cancelled on 30th August, 2017.

Due to derailment of Tr.no.12290 Nagpur – C.Shivaji Maharaj Terminal Duranto Express between Asangaon – Vasinad stations of Central Railway section on 29.08.2017, the following trains are cancelled.

Trains Cancelled: Train No. 17057 C.Shivaji Maharaj Terminal – Secunderabad Devagiri Express is cancelled on 29th August, 2017.

Due to Law and Order situation in Northern Railway by DERA Sacha Sauda followers in Haryana & Punjab states, the following trains passing through SCR jurisdiction are cancelled.

Trains Cancelled:

  • Train No. 12716 Amritsar – H.S.Nanded Sachkhand Express is cancelled on 29th August, 2017.
  • Train No. 12421 H.S.Nanded – Amritsar Express is cancelled on 30th August, 2017.

*Railways expressed regret for the Inconvenience.

Flood-enforced blockade hurts Northeast Frontier Railway in best Revenue Year

Rail link between the Northeast and the mainland cut off since August 13. Track damage has also put the spotlight on alternative rail routes for bailing out the Northeast during emergencies.

GUWAHATI: Floods have cut off rail link between the Northeast and the mainland since August 13, hurting the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) in its best revenue year, besides depleting the stock of essentials across the region.

Damage to tracks has enforced a blockade that has again put the spotlight on alternative rail routes for bailing out the Northeast during emergencies.

Unlike other zones, NFR, catering primarily to eight landlocked north-eastern states besides parts of Bihar and West Bengal, is dependent on passenger traffic for revenue.

For the first time in decades, NFR topped all zones across the country to record 12.2% growth in passenger traffic between January and July this year. Passenger earnings too increased by 7.73% to touch Rs 1,009.40 crore during this period.

But two breaches on the arterial track near Telta and Sudhani stations in Bihar (between Kishanganj in Bihar and Malda in West Bengal) on August 13 came as a dampener for NFR, which has lost more than Rs 40 crore in revenue since.

The loss could cross Rs 50 crore by August 31, when the railway line is expected to be repaired for movement of trains.

“Our goods traffic is mostly inbound, which means there is hardly any loading of goods in the Northeast. Our revenue is thus passenger-dependent,” said NFR spokesperson Pranav Jyoti Sharma.

From August 13-20, NFR lost Rs 23.77 crore because of cancellation of 284 trains.

FCI stocks depleting

The nature-enforced railway blockade has hit Manipur – a victim of blockades by NGOs for long – the most.

As on August 20, Manipur had only a day’s stock of foodgrains and sugar procured by Food Corporation of India (FCI) via the railways. Mizoram followed with 11 days’ stock, Assam with 13, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland with 14 each, Tripura with 27 and Meghalaya with 29 days’ stock.

The next assessment of stock will be done on Tuesday.

FCI’s total storage capacity for foodgrains and sugar in the Northeast is 563,557 million tonnes.

According to the Kamrup Chamber of Commerce, the most influential trade body in the region, FCI warehouses being low on essentials is no cause for panic.

“Private players have sufficient quantity of essential commodities to last more than two months. Merchants are also bringing in goods by road. But the problem is NFR has halted continuous loading of wagons because of the disruption,” said the chamber’s president, Mahavir Jain.

Unlike FCI, merchants across the Northeast bring in only 30% of their goods by trains

NFR officials handling freight admitted 109 rakes, 10 of them for FCI, were stopped from being loaded in commodities hubs across the country. This was because 100 Northeast-bound rakes were not able to enter the NFR system for unloading at specific destinations in the region.

A rake has a maximum 52 wagons that are booked by a single or group of merchants. NFR handles an average 630 inbound rakes per month.

The freight service has been affected because the Guwahati-headquartered NFR’s three goods interchange points – Purnea, Katihar and Malda – are beyond the stretches where the tracks have been damaged.

Katihar and Purnea cater primarily to rice and wheat from northern India, while Malda is the interchange point for freight trains bringing in potatoes, onions, sugar, and fertiliser from western, central and southern India besides the ports on the Bay of Bengal.

Security concern for oil rakes

Seven loaded oil rakes stranded in northern West Bengal have raised security concerns for NFR. The railway zone has sought extra security fearing sabotage and pilferage of high-speed diesel and superior kerosene oil from these rakes.

“NFR moves an average 120 oil rakes per month. Some of them are loaded from the four refineries in Assam and some from two pipeline points in northern Bengal connected to two of these refineries. Each rake has 3,000 tonnes of diesel or kerosene,” a senior commercial manager said, declining to be named.

The vulnerability of the oil tankers increases manifold if they are stationary.

Alternative tracks

The Chicken’s Neck, a narrow strip of land in West Bengal connecting the Northeast to mainland India, allows little scope for alternative railway tracks.

“This disaster should make NFR give serious thought to laying tracks that can be relied upon during times of crisis. The railways has been delaying a few such projects,” Jain said.

NFR officials, however, disagreed, claiming work on one such broad gauge project — the 110.75 km Araria-Galgalia line in north-eastern Bihar — was started after a budget grant of Rs 150 crore during the 2016-17 fiscal.

The progress of work on this new line, estimated to cost Rs 838 crore has been 2% till date, according to an NFR officer.

A grant of Rs 10 crore was also provided for another project, the 50.87 km Jalalgarh-Kishanganj line in Bihar, but work has not started yet, said the officer. The anticipated cost for Jalalgarh-Kishanganj is Rs 565 crore.

“If we had either of these two lines, all goods and passenger trains could have been diverted,” the officer said.

Assam Rail Passengers’ Association (ARPA) urge Centre to speed up Rail Projects in Assam; rues at MOSR

GUWAHATI: Lambasting the Central government and the Railway Board over their failure to speed up the double-tracking projects in the State, the Assam Rail Passengers’ Association (ARPA) has said that delay in execution of the same in the New Bongaigaon-Agyathuri section will mean that the actual benefits of the Bogibeel Bridge will not soon be received by the State in general and its people in particular.

Dipankar Sharma, ARPA secretary, said that though utilisation percentage of the main rail lines in Assam has reached as high as 170 per cent, no step has been taken by the Centre to undertake double-tracking works, while similar projects have been sanctioned in states like Punjab, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, even when tracks in those places have only a utilisation percentage of around 100-110 per cent.

“In the 2013 Railway Budget, sanction was given for doubling of tracks in the New Bongaigaon-Agyathuri section, but since then the files have been lying with the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). This is the main rail line of our State and officially its utility was mentioned as being 167 per cent six months ago,” he said.

Sharma added, “While people of our State are being made to wait for CCEA nod for so many years, earlier this year, sanction was given for doubling of tracks at some sections in Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Kerala where the utilisation of tracks is currently only around 100-110 per cent. This shows that despite tall claims and promises, the NDA regime has not done anything to remove infrastructure bottlenecks in the railway sector in Assam and the Northeast.”

He rued that despite the Minister of State for Railways hailing from Assam, the State in particular and the Northeastern region in general have not been able to reap the benefits in actual terms as far as the development of railway infrastructure is concerned.

“Even our State government and the MPs elected from Assam are mum on such sensitive issues. Our Chief Minister visits New Delhi at least twice a week but he never bothers to raise such issues of vital economic, infrastructural as well as strategic importance with the Centre,” said the ARPA secretary.

Sharma said such discriminatory attitude by New Delhi is what forces the people of Assam to resort to agitations.

Meeting over Indo-Bangla Railway Project on Aug 28

West Tripura district administration is planning to handover required land to the NFR by early next month to undertake ground work

DHAKA: A high-level bilateral meeting is scheduled to be held in Dhaka on August 28 regarding the progress of the Indo-Bangla railway project, in order to push the Indo-Bangla railway project, official sources confirmed here on Saturday. The meeting will be held at the Tripura Secretariat said.

Officials from Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), North East Frontier Railway (NFR) and Tripura’s Transport Secretary Samarjit Bhowmik are likely to attend the meeting.

On Bangladesh side, officers from Bangladesh Railways and Ministry of External Affairs will join the meeting. In the meeting, the progress of 15-km stretch of railway link between Agartala and Gangasagar (Bangladesh) will be reviewed.

Sources said land acquisition process has already begun in Bangladesh side, while the same process has gained ground on the Indian side too. According to latest inputs, West Tripura district administration is planning to hand over required land to the NFR by early next month to undertake ground work.

According to latest inputs, West Tripura district administration is planning to hand over required land to the NFR by early next month to undertake ground work.

According to the report, Ircon has been assigned to execute the railway link on both sides and India’s Ministry for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) has already released fund to the tune of Rs98 crore to expedite land acquisition process. IRCON has been assigned to execute the 15-km railway link on both sides and the DoNER has already released fund to the tune of Rs. 98 crore to expedite land acquisition process.

“Once the required land is provided to us, the NFR will undertake construction of railway track on elevated corridor within a month,” said an official of the NFR here. The entire project cost would be borne by the Centre.

New Delhi is keen to establish the rail link as it would connect West Bengal and Tripura through Bangladesh. During the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in January 2010, India and Bangladesh had agreed to lay the tracks between Gangasagar (Bangladesh) and Agartala. The 15-km-long Agartala-Gangasagar railway route will connect Indian Railways with the Bangladesh Railways through the North-east which would improve connectivity and boost trade between the countries.

The 1,700 km distance between Agartala and Kolkata through chicken neck near Siliguri would be reduced to only 350 km if passengers from here could move through Bangladesh soil, according to sources.

The NFR will undertake construction of railway track on elevated corridor within a month once the land is provided.

During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in 2010, both counties had agreed to lay the tracks between Bangladesh’s Gangasagar and Agartala.

The railway route will connect Indian Railways with the Bangladesh Railways through the north-east which would improve connectivity and boost trade between the countries

Floods ravage East, Northeast states, Rail links remain snapped – Trains operations badly hit

Many Trains Cancelled due to Heavy Rains in North Frontier Railway!

GUWAHATI: Rail link between the Northeast and rest of the country remained snapped for the second consecutive day due to floods in Bihar and the Railway Board has decided to cancel all incoming trains from various parts of the country towards the northeastern region till 10 am on August 16.

“The Railway Board has decided to cancel all incoming trains from various parts of the country towards the North East region which were to reach either Katihar or Malda Town till 10 am of August 16,” Pranav Jyoti Sharma, Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) said.

He said that senior Railway officials are at stationed at sites affected by flooding and water levels are being constantly monitored. “Booking refund counters are being kept open at Katihar, New Jalpaiguri and Guwahati stations to facilitate easy refund to passengers and officials are keeping a strict vigil to ensure that catering units are fully stocked with essential food items and passengers are not put to any inconvenience. Passengers are being intimated through SMS about cancellation of passenger trains. Frequent announcements are also being made through PA system at stations,” Sharma said.

Thousands of commuters have been left stranded at various stations across the NFR zone since yesterday since the rail link got snapped after rising water-levels inundated tracks at Katihar and Alipurduar divisions. Normal train traffic is still plying from New Jalpaiguri eastwards towards Guwahati and further up to Dibrugarh, Silchar, Murkongselek and Agartala. “However, train service to and from NFR zone to other parts of the country continue to remain disrupted. Services are only likely to resume once flood water recede and the track is certified fit for traffic,” said an official.

A number of trains including the Dibrugarh-Howrah Kamrup Express, the Dibrugarh-New Delhi Rajdhani Express and the Dibrugarh-Delhi Brahmaputra Mail were cancelled today. In addition, NFR has also announced cancellation of a number of trains scheduled for tomorrow. Among them are the Guwahati-Rajendranagar Capital Express, the Guwahati-Bangalore Express, the North East Express, the Saraighat Express, the Guwahati-Lokmanya Tilak Terminus Express and the Kamakhya-Bangalore Express.

Due to heavy rains and water flow over the track between Kishanganj and Panjipara of North Frontier Railway  the following trains are cancelled as detailed below:

Trains Cancelled:

  • Train No. 12504 Kamakhya – Bengaluru Cantt Express is cancelled on 22nd  August, 2017.
  • Train No. 12508 Guwahati – Thiruvantapuram Central is cancelled on 25th August, 2017.
  • Train No. 12510 Guwahati – Bengaluru Cantt Express is cancelled on 21st ,22nd and 27th  August, 2017.
  • Train No. 12514 Guwahati – Secunderabad Express is cancelled on 24th August, 2017.
  • Train No.12516 Guwahati-Thiruvantapuram Central Express is cancelled on 23rd August, 2017
  • Train No.12552 Kamakhya – Yeshvantapur Express is cancelled on 23rd August, 2017
  • Train No.15630 Guwahati-Tambaram Express is cancelled on 25th August, 2017
  • Train No.15906 Dibrugarh – Kanyakumari Express is cancelled on 26th  August, 2017
  • Train No.15930 Dibrugarh – Tambaram Express is cancelled on 27th August, 2017.
  • Train No.22502 New Tinsukia – Bengaluru City Express is cancelled on 25th August, 2017
  • Train No.22612 New Jalpaiguri – Chennai Central Express is cancelled on 25th  August, 2017
  • Train No.12503 Bengaluru City – Kamakhya Express is cancelled on 25th  August, 2017.
  • Train No.12509 Bengaluru City – Guwahati Express is cancelled on 23rd, 24th and 25th August, 2017.
  • Train No.12551 Yeshvantapur – Kamakhya Express is cancelled on 26th August, 2017.
  • Train No.22501 Bengaluru City – New Tinsukia Express is cancelled on 22nd August, 2017.
  • Train No.15629 Tambaram – Guwahati Express is cancelled on 21st August, 2017.
  • Train No.12507 Thiruvanantapuram Central – Guwahati Express is cancelled on 22nd August, 2017.

Northeast Floods: Flood bill of approx Rs.150 Crore for Railways in 7 days

NEW DELHI: Indian railways has incurred a loss of nearly Rs 150 crore in the last seven days due to floods in Assam, West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, a spokesperson of the railways said.

The Northeast Frontier Railway lost approximately Rs.12 Crore per day as revenue from passengers and parcel, while repairs of submerged tracks would cost an estimated Rs 10 crore. The cumulative loss in this zone has been around Rs 94 crore.

Similarly, the East Central Railway has lost Rs 5.5 crore per day while the cost of repairs is an estimated Rs 5 crore in this zone.

“It is very difficult to ascertain the exact loss in revenue and these are all rough figures. The true picture will only be known after the situation normalises,” said Anil Saxena, Spokesperson, Railways.

The loss of revenue, officials say, is mostly because of major cancellations of trains in these two zones primarily due to submerging of tracks.

Calling floods this time as “unprecedented”, Railway Board Member Traffic Md Jamshed said tracks in parts of northeast region are totally under water and entry to Northeast Frontier Railway is completely stopped.

According to Railway Board, 445 trains were cancelled, 151 partially cancelled and 4 diverted in northeast frontier railway while 66 trains were cancelled, 105 partially cancelled and 28 diverted in East central Railways between August 10-18.

The cancellation of trains has caused a loss of Rs 80 crore with Rs 65 crore commercial loss due to the cancellation of passenger and freight services and Rs 15 crore as track repair damage.

“We are taking stock of the situation regularly and water level in some areas is still high but has started to recede. We will be able to access the exact damage after water receded,” said Jamshed.

Railway has cancelled all trains services beyond Malda and Katihar by August 20 but inter-state connectivity on some sections in West Bengal and Assam is being operated. No accessibility to damage sites has affected the restoration work and telecommunication network in the entire section is also badly affected.

Some of the bridges are also damaged by flooding and it will take time for restoring trains services on the section, said a railway officer, adding that the exact damage would only be calculated after water recedes.

Heavy rains in the northeast region have caused unprecedented damage in the region with several lakhs affected.

Efforts on to Restore Flood-Damaged Railway Infrastructure, N-E links remains Snapped

GUWAHATI: Works to restore railway infrastructure damaged by the flood under the jurisdiction of the N R Railway is on in the war footing in the wake of the Railway Board giving direction to all zonal railways to cancel trains travelling from various parts of the country beyond Malda town in West Bengal and Katihar in Bihar till August 20 next because of the damage to railway infrastructure by flood fury.

The damage of railway infrastructure due to flood fury forced the N F Railway to cancel altogether 77 trains so far. The railway link with North East India has remained snapped.

Meanwhile, a medical camp was conducted at Guwahati station for the passengers waiting in the station due to cancellation of train services. The N F Railway is running special trains from Guwahati to Dalkhola and from Dibrugarh to Guwahati for clearance of rush caused by cancellation of trains due to unprecedented flood, according to the CPRO of the N R Railway, Pranab Jyoti Sharma.

The CPRO informed that at Bridge No. 3 located at Km. 7/2-3 between stations Kuretha and Manian in the section Katihar- Kumedpur which was breached at 7.30 A.M. on Wednesday, N.F. Railway has been able to mobilise a 45 ft. girder along with a 140-ton crane which has reached site from Eastern Railway. Boulders for restoration have been mobilised from Pakur, Bakudi and Sakrigli.

This bridge which is crucial for connectivity from Katihar to Malda is being attended by more than 600 labours working round the clock and it is expected that if flood condition does not deteriorate further the bridge will be restored by tomorrow.

At Bridge No. 133 located between stations Sudhani – Telta of New Jalpaiguri – Malda section which was worst hit with almost 60 m approach being washed away on both up and down line, restoration work has already been started. The senior railway officials are camping at site while an NDRF team from Danapur has also reached the site today. Work is progressing day and night.

At bridge no. MK 8, 9, 11 between stations Kumedpur – Khurial of Malda Town New Jalpaiguri section which have been washed out by flood water from river Mahananda, restoration work is going on in full swing under supervision of senior Railway officials.

In Alipurduar Division, track connection from Fakiragram to Dhubri has been restored from Thursday morning after completion of work at Bridge no. 28. Train connection from Dhubri will be restored and DEMU services will be started from Friday. In Lumding Division, the flood-affected track between Silghat and Jakhalabandha stations has been attended and restored for movement of traffic at restricted speed.

NFR starts systematic inspection of catering units

GUWAHATI: With complaints against the catering service of the Indian Railways becoming more frequent in recent months, Maligaon-headquartered Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has started a systematic inspection of catering units within the zone, which has so far led to penalty of over Rs 5.62 lakh being imposed on vendors and other service providers for non-adherence to quality norms.

The inspection, which started in late July, is expected to continue till mid-August, and covers catering units including pantry cars, base kitchens and static units located at railway stations.

Sharing details of the drive, Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of NFR Pranav Jyoti Sharma said that in the first week of the drive as many as 18 pantry cars were inspected, during which a total of Rs 2.8 lakh had been recovered as penalty from the vendors for non-adherence to standards laid down by the railway authority.

“Four base kitchens have also been inspected and a fine to the tune of Rs 1 lakh has been recovered from erring contractors. In addition to this, six food stalls, three food plazas, four refreshment rooms and one ‘Jan Aahar’ unit have been inspected and a sum of Rs 1.82 lakh recovered as penalty,” he said.

There are seven base kitchens in the NFR zone. These are located at Dibrugarh, Guwahati, Kamakhya, New Coochbehar, New Jalpaiguri (two units) and Katihar.

“During inspection, aspects like location, ISO certification, capacity, staffing, mechanisation, cleanliness, hygiene, quality and quantity of food and other parameters are checked,” said Sharma.

It is noteworthy that as part of the ‘New Catering Policy’ announced by the Railway Board in February this year, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has been mandated to carry out unbundling of catering services on trains by creating a distinction primarily between food preparation and food distribution.

In order to upgrade quality of food preparation, IRCTC will set up new kitchens and upgrade existing ones.

As per the new policy, IRCTC is to manage catering service on all mobile units and pantry car contracts awarded by zonal railways are to be reassigned to IRCTC.

Besides, meals for all mobile units are to be picked up from the nominated kitchens owned, operated and managed by IRCTC.

The Corporation will also retain the ownership and be fully accountable for all the issues pertaining to setting up and operation of the base kitchens and quality of food, and it has been tasked to engage service providers from hospitality industry for providing service of food on trains.

Indian Railways executing atleast 15 Railway projects in the North-East: MOSR

Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally monitoring the progress of the projects on weekly basis!

NEW DELHI: The Railways has taken up at least 15 major projects of new lines in the northeastern states, including in Assam, Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain said in Rajya Sabha today.

The Indian Railways has laid great emphasis on improvement and development of railway infrastructure in Assam and the northeastern states, said the minister in reply to a question by Santius Kujur.

The projects include Bogibeel bridge with linking lines between Dibrugarh and the North Bank (73 km). The anticipated cost of the bridge project is Rs 4,996 crore and expenditure incurred up to March this year was Rs 4,102 crore. The total outlay for the project this fiscal is Rs 300 crore.

Gohain said final location survey for new lines included in the budget has been taken up by the Northeast Frontier Railway. Asked about the estimated time-line to complete the railway lines for commencement of operations, Gohain said the Railways has huge throw-forward of ongoing projects with limited resources.

He said completion of projects also depends on land acquisition and forestry clearance, law and order, NOC in road, canal and electrical crossings from different Central and state government authorities.

Tejas train running without Safety Clearance

Launched by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in May, Tejas runs between Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus and Karmali in Goa. Tejas has the highest ticket fare per kilometre for trains in the country, with an executive chair-car seat costing around Rs 2,940 with food for the 552-km trip.

NEW DELHI:  The Railways has been running the newly launched Mumbai-Goa luxury train Tejas Express, billed as the “future of train travel” in India, without the mandatory safety clearance from the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS).

Last week, the CRS, which is a statutory body under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, wrote to Central Railway and the Rail Ministry asking why the new train was launched and continues to run without the CRS having inspected it and given a safety nod. In its reply, the Railways’ R&D wing has claimed that the train is currently running without many of its special features and did not include any “new rolling stock” that needed fresh clearance.

In its letter, the CRS pointed out that the move to run the train without its clearance violates Section 27 of the Railways Act, 1989, which mandates that any new rolling stock can be introduced only after prior inspection by it. The move also goes against the Railway Ministry’s Policy Circular No 6, which stipulates that any new rolling stock with higher speed must get a new safety certificate from the CRS.

Sources in the civil engineering wing of Railways said that the policy circular is significant because any new rolling stock potentially alters rail-wheel interaction and needs a fresh safety mandate by the regulator.

Launched by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in May, Tejas runs between Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Karmali in Goa. One of the new products introduced in the last Rail Budget by Prabhu, Tejas has the highest ticket fare per kilometre for trains in the country, with an executive chair-car seat costing around Rs 2,940 with food for the 552-km trip.

The CRS has contended that Tejas is a new product with automatic doors and a new braking system, and capable of running at a top speed of 200 kmph — its coaches, including the toilets, are also different from existing products.

On behalf of the Railway Ministry, the Research Design and Standards Organisation replied to the CRS notice, claiming that Tejas was “not a new rolling stock”, and that although the train has many new features, they are not being currently used, including the new electro-pneumatic braking system.

It also pointed out that although Tejas can run at a top speed of 200 kmph, it is currently running at a speed of 110 kmph — like any other ordinary superfast train. Besides, even though there are automatic doors, it does not change the behaviour of the rolling stock, it said.

Anticipated cost of Imphal-Jiribam Rail line pegged at Rs.9658 Crores

IMPHAL/NEW DELHI: Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain informed the Rajya Sabha yesterday that the Imphal-Jiribam rail line has been taken up at the anticipated cost of Rs 9658 crore while an expenditure of Rs 5278 crore has been incurred till March this year.

An outlay of Rs 1400 crore has been provided for 2017-2018 for the project, said Gohain and added that Imphal to Jiribam railway line is part of the Trans-Asian railway network.

Replying to questions raised by Rajya Sabha MP K Bhabananda, Gohain further said that the completion of the project depends on many factors such as land acquisition, forestry and wild life clearances, shifting of services, construction of road over and under bridges, law and order etc.

The proposed railway stations that will come up along the new line are Jiribam, Vangaichingpo, Kaimai, Kambiron Thingao, Khonsang, Awangkhul, Noney, Tupul, Haochong and Imphal, informed the Minister.

To other posers raised by K Bhabananda, MoS for Electronics and Information Technology, PP Chaudhury said that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology is implementing Digital India programme to transform India to a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy and added that State Wide Area Networks (SWANs), State Date Centres (SDCs), Common Service Centres (CSCs), State Service Delivery Gateways (SSDGs), e-District Mission Mode Project (MMP) have been implemented to help the Government Departments in the States and Centre.

Land acquisition for Indo-Bangla Rail project begins in Tripura

7 years on, land acquisition begins for India-Bangladesh rail line in both countries!

AGARTALA: Land acquisition for a 15 km India-Bangladesh railway line has finally begun in both countries – more than seven-and-a-half-years after the Rs 963 crore ($145 million) project was finalised and a year after the ground-breaking ceremony was performed, an official said here.

The Agartala (India)-Akhaura (Bangladesh) railway line would facilitate carriage of goods to and from both the countries and greatly benefit India’s land-locked northeastern states. Also, the journey time between Agartala and Kolkata, via Bangladesh, would be reduced by a third, from 1,613-km through mountainous terrain to a mere 514 km.

“We have started the land acquisition process this week for the railway project. We have targeted to hand over the required land to the railways by August 31,” West Tripura District Magistrate and Collector Milind Ramteke told.

Notice has been served on 257 families to acquire 66 acres of land, five acres of which belongs to the government and the remaining is privately-owned.

The process is being conducted under The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which was enacted by the Congress-led UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government during its second stint in office.

State Government of Tripura has issued a notification for acquisition of land for the proposed Indo-Bangla railway project, official sources said here on Friday. “As per preliminary reports, altogether 257 land owners are supposed to get compensation against the land acquisition”, said an official of District Magistrate (DM), West Tripura office. The entire process is scheduled to be completed by August 15.

The Centre has already released Rs 97.63 crore for land acquisition for the proposed rail project connecting Agartala railway station to Bangladesh’s Gangasagar station.

The project was finalised in January 2010 when Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met her then Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and his Bangladeshi counterpart, Majibul Haque, jointly laid its foundation stone here on July 31 last year.
“After the Revenue Department of the Tripura government issued a notification last week, our officials have quickly started the actual work of land acquisition,” the District Magistrate said.

Ramteke said that the Union government had released Rs 97.63 crore to acquire the land for the project, for which the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) is the nodal agency. An NFR official said that the Bangladesh government also started acquiring around 70 acres of land for the project.

“After the actual work starts, the project would be completed within 30 months,” the NFR official told IANS, preferring anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The government-owned Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) would lay the five km track on the Indian side while the remaining 10 km would be laid by the Bangladesh railways.

However, IRCON would be the project management consultant of the Bangladesh Railway Board.

The Indian government would bear the entire cost of the project, which also figured during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Sheikh Hasina during his visit to Dhaka in June 2015.

The Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Ministry would bear the cost of the project on the Indian side while the External Affairs Ministry would bear the cost of the project on the Bangladesh side.

The Agartala-Akhaura project, which was sanctioned in the 2012-13 railway budget, would be part of the Trans-Asian Railway Network and provide much shorter connectivity from northeastern states to Kolkata via Bangladesh.

The existing railway line from Guwahati passes through Lumding in Nagaon district (in central Assam) and southern Assam connecting Agartala and parts of Manipur and Mizoram with the rest of the country.

In October 2008, with the extension of the metre gauge track up to Agartala through southern Assam, Tripura became the first state capital in the northeast to be brought on India’s rail map after the country’s independence. Subsequently, the metre gauge was converted into broad gauge.

Currently, India and Bangladesh have four rail links with West Bengal.

Reports from across the border indicate, land acquisition process has already begun in Bangladesh side. Of the total 15-km length railway project, around 10 km rail track will fall in Bangladesh side while remaining part falls in Indian side.

In Indian side, a major portion will be elevated corridor to save land and this has reduced the land acquisition process for the railway project.

The IRCON has been tasked to execute the 15 km ambitious project amounting to Rs 967.85 crore. IRCON is expected to start the work at the earliest.

 

Efforts on to expand Railway Network to China border

GUWAHATI: With China already launching its mega One Belt One Road (OBOR) project to connect Asia and Africa and Beijing’s rapid efforts to develop infrastructure, including railway network in Tibet, which can have serious geo-strategic repercussions for India, efforts have gained momentum from New Delhi to expand the railway network to areas near the China border in Arunachal Pradesh.

Senior officials told that ‘Reconnaissance Engineering cum Traffic Surveys’ for a number of new lines to connect various places in Arunachal Pradesh are progressing at a fast pace and we are in much advanced stages in various milestones.

One such survey for construction of a new line to extend the linkage with Chittagong and Belonia, in order to connect with the Bangladesh railway network with that of India in Tripura, is also going ahead, in which 20 per cent progress has so far been achieved.

“The Indian government is taking China’s plan to expand its railway and road infrastructure very seriously. As compared to the efforts taken by Beijing on its side of the border, New Delhi’s efforts over the years have been considerably lackadaisical. Now that has changed and surveys are on at a fast pace to reconnoitre areas through which the railway network can be extended to the Chinese frontier in Arunachal Pradesh,” said a source.

Meanwhile, the Northeast Frontier Railway (Construction) is currently undertaking a total of 10 surveys, including eight Reconnaissance Engineering cum Traffic Surveys and two Final Location Surveys, in Arunachal Pradesh and for connecting certain places in Arunachal Pradesh from Assam.

The sections where the surveys for new lines are on include – from Dangari to Roing (60 km), Margherita-Deomali (31 km), Lekhapani-Kharsang (25 km), Lekhapani-Nampong-New Khamlang-Deban (75 km), Naharkatia-Deomali (20 km), Tinsukia (Longpatia)-Pasighat via Kanubari, Deomali, Lekhapani, Jairampur, Kharsang, Miao, Diyun, Tezu, Bhismaknagar, Roing and Dambuk (300 km), Doomdooma-Wakro via Simulguri, Namsai and Chowkham (96 km), Pasighat-Tezu-Rupai (227 km), Misamari (Bhalukpong)-Tenga-Tawang (378 km), and North Lakhimpur-Bame (Along)-Silapathar (249 km).

The rate of progress so far is between eight per cent to 19 per cent, said Pranav Jyoti Sharma, Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of NF Railway.

Experts as well as railway officials observe that the expansion of railway network to the Chinese border and augmenting the railway connectivity with Bangladesh is not only sound from the strategic point of view, but it will also boost trade, commerce and investment in the Northeast.

Bogibeel Rail Bridge to be completed during 2017-18: Suresh Prabhu

GUWAHATI: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has assured that construction of the Bogibeel Bridge would be completed during 2017-18. Prabhu informed about this to Governor Banwarilal Purohit in a letter.

The Governor had earlier written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting the PMO’s intervention in expediting the construction of the Bogibeel Bridge.

Prabhu mentioned that all the 42 well foundations and piers of the main bridge have been completed. Work of both north and south guide bunds, of rail link from Chaulkhowa to Moranhat, along with connectivity on North and South banks have also been completed, he said. Presently, the work of main bridge superstructure is in progress and 35 girders out of 41 have already been launched.

Moreover deck slab concreting has commenced from North bank which is in the process of connecting the South soon, Prabhu informed Purohit. The Bogibeel rail-cum-road bridge project was a part of the Assam Accord. The bridge project was sanctioned in the year 1997 and was declared as a National Project in 2007.

The total project cost is estimated at around Rs 5,000 crore. The bridge site is 17 km downstream of Dibrugarh. It connects Silapathar in Dhemaji district on the north bank of Brahmaputra and Bogibeel in Dibrugarh district on the south bank.

The design of Bogibeel bridge has 39 Nos.of 125 metres (410 ft) spans and a superstructure of composite welded steel truss and reinforced concrete. It is designed to carry a double line broad gauge railway on the lower deck and a 3-lane road on the upper deck. Upon completion it will be the longest bridge over the Brahmaputra and the longest combined rail and road bridge in India. However, due to late completion this bridge may be overtaken as longest bridge over Brahmaputra by Dhola-Sadiya Bridge which is a road bridge of length 9.15 km.

Bogibeel bridge will provide a connection between the Rangia-Murkongselek section of the North East Frontier Railwayon the north bank of Brahmaputra and Lumding–Dibrugarh section that lies to the south of the Brahmaputra. A New Dibrugarh Railway Station, expected to be the largest in the region, has been proposed and is to be linked to the Rangia – Murkongselek line via Chaulkhowa and Moranhat. The Railways have initiated the gauge conversion of the Dhamalgaon to Sisiborgaon rail line to the north of the bridge and commissioned the 44-kilometre-long (27 mi) Chalkhowa – Moranhat line to the south.

Northeastern Region to benefit immensely with Tetelia-Shillong Rail line project

The planned railway from Tetelia in Assam to Shillong in Meghalaya, via Byrnihat, is both a blessing for the people in the North East

The planned railway from Tetelia in Assam to Shillong in Meghalaya, via Byrnihat, is both a blessing for the people. There is an upside to the project. The proposed railway line will improve the connectivity of the region. Businessmen, farmers, and other travellers travel back and forth between Shillong and Guwahati for various reasons. The most common mode of transport is the highway. Many locals and tourists travelling through the winding road would testify to the often nauseating journey. No, it is not always a smooth ride.

Hitherto, the highway and airway were the only available modes of transport between the two states. Both of which, are not always pleasant. The weather conditions in Meghalaya are such that, carrying an umbrella is a necessity. The unpredictable weather conditions thus make travelling through these means dangerous. Also, the airport at Umroi, which is 30 kilometres from Shillong, is almost always dysfunctional. The railway line would thus save a lot of time and energy while travelling.

On the developmental front, while the rest of India is progressing rapidly, reaping most of the benefits of the government’s schemes and projects, the corresponding situation in the Northeast is abysmal. The railway line will be a step towards this progress.

With the improvement of connectivity, it would make the transaction of business easier. In addition, it would be a blessing for farmers, like the rains after a drought as it would improve the mode of transportation of their goods, reduce wastage and potentially expand their market. Thus, the project would boost the economy of both states.

Bogibeel bridge opening likely within this fiscal

GUWAHATI:  Work on the long-awaited Bogibeel Bridge is progressing at a fast pace and Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has completed launching of the 35th girder of the bridge.

NFR officials said that the 35th girder was launched in June. Another six girders remain to be completed and they are expected to be completed by September.

“The sub-structure works for the bridge have already been completed. There are 41 girders, out of which 35 have been launched till date,” said an official.

He added, “Girder fabrication and assembly works are being executed with state-of-the-art welding technology as per European standards. The project is progressing as planned. The Railway authorities are planning to complete launching of all the girders by September.”

Work on the viaduct in the north bank of the Brahmaputra and the approaches on the National Highway in that direction have already been completed.

“Deck slab concreting of 10 spans have been done and further work are in progress. Track linking from the north bank side has been taken up,” said an official, adding that on the south bank work is being carried out by the PWD (National Highways) on the approach road connecting the bridge.

The Bogibeel rail-cum-road bridge project was a part of the Assam Accord. The bridge project was sanctioned in 1997 and was declared as a National Project in 2007.

The total project cost is estimated at around Rs 5,000 crore.

The bridge site is 17 kms downstream of Dibrugarh and connects Silapathar in Dhemaji district on the north bank of the Brahmaputra and Bogibeel in Dibrugarh district on the south bank.

At 4.94 kms, the Bogibeel rail-cum-road bridge will be the longest bridge over the Brahmaputra and also the longest rail-cum-road bridge in India.

The bridge is planned for commissioning within the current fiscal.

Apart from the main bridge, the project also incorporates guide bunds (2,043 metres of guide bunds on the south bank and 2,792 metres on the north bank) and road viaducts on the north and south banks, 32 kms of dyke strengthening, National Highway road network of 30 kms, railway network of 74 kms and six new stations, including Dibrugarh station.

Special Trains from Secunderabad to Guwahati & back to clear rush of traffic

SECUNDERABAD: South Central Railway is running 26 special trains from Secunderabad to Guwahati & back to clear extra rush of traffic on this busy route.

The special trains will run via Guntur, Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam, Bhubaneshwar, Kharagpur, Malda Town, Kishanganj, New Jalpaiguri, New Bongaigaon in both directions.

Accordingly, Train No. 07149 Secunderabad – Guwahati Special train will depart Secunderabad at 07:30 hrs on 7th, 14th, 21st , 28th July, 4th ,11th, 18th,  25th August, 1st  8th, 15th, 22nd  & 29th September, 2017 (Friday) and arrive Guwahati at 08:45 hrs on Sunday.

In the return direction, Train No. 07150 Guwahati – Secunderabad Special train will depart  Guwahti at 05:25 hrs on 10th, 17th, 24th , 31st  July, 7th, 14th, 21st , 28th August,  4th, 11th, 18th ,25th September  and 2nd  October 2017 (Monday) and arrive Secunderabad at 09:15 hrs on Wednesday.

These trains will comprise of AC II Tier, AC III Tier and Sleeper Class accommodation.

Vacant berths are available to make advance reservations including for Train no. 07149 Secunderabad – Guwahati Express of 07th July, 2017.

NFR accords Special Status to Dhubri Railway station

DHUBRI: In a bid to promote the tourism potential of Dhubri district, the North East Frontier Railway (NFR) has decided to give a special status to Dhubri Railway Station by upgrading it with reference to its religious importance.

Although the Dhubri railway station is one of the oldest railway stations in the entire North-east but due to lack of traffic and other demographic and geographic issues, it has been classified as an E-category railway station. E-category railway stations are the least category of railway stations. However, the (NFR) has decided to grant a special status to the railway station keeping in view its religious importance.

While addressing the local media recently, Chief Public Relation Officer (CPRO) of the NF Railway, Pranav Jyoti Sharma said that thousands of pilgrims visit Gurdwara Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, the Mahamaya temples of the district, the Panbari Rangamati Masjid etc., every year. If the railway communication to the town is developed, then we hope that the pilgrims will multiply. He added, “The NFR has sanctioned an amount of Rs 3.4 crore on June, 2016 just to develop the Dhubri railway station. With this amount of money, the station will be upgraded and better passenger facilities will be available.”

As per the details of the project, the platforms of the station will be raised from low-level passenger platforms to high-level platforms. Provisions of hydrant pipelines with yard drainage will be made and passenger platform sheds will be extended to five bays. The upgradation process will also include an extension of the circulating area, construction of 8-bed retiring room, installation of overhead PVC water tanks with iron removal plants.

It was also informed that the entire station will be improvised into a state-of-the-art railway station. “We have planned to decorate the gate and the walls of the station with craft and paintings from all over the district to give the passengers a view of the history, culture and tradition of the area,” said the CPRO.

He also added that the project has been finalised and they will soon start the field works after the completion of a few more paper works. Sharma also said that apart from upgrading the station, the NFR is also planning to connect the station with more number of trains. “As per the demands of the people of Dhubri, we are working hard and will soon start the plying of the Dhubri-Silghat Rajyarani Express, on a daily basis,” he said.

India and China in a cold Railway race in the Himalayan regions of Leh and Tibet

Are India and China heading towards a cold war over railways? Chinese expansions have shown New Delhi the way to lead into a post-modern war.

India and China have gradually wounded up for a very cold railway race to solidify their presence in Himalayan regions of Leh and Tibet, respectively. It is also a race to infrastructural arms that will have great impact on the Siliguri Corridor and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, in the foreseeable future.

In December, last year, India fast-tracked its plans for building the world’s highest railway track, the Bilaspur-Manali-Leh line. Concrete plans for it began in early September, as the ministry sought land from the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council. This happened barely months after the Chinese government announced the Sichuan Tibet Railway — its second Himalayan railway network to Tibet — in March 2016. The project, aimed at escalating Chinese migration and industry in the Tibet region, was tactically announced in the month of the Tibetan National Uprising Day (March 10), which was also the month of the Tibetan uprising of 2008.

World Highest Rail Bridge crossing over the River Chenab In Jammu & Kashmir in India

In 2017, as India battles icy spectres in its own backyard — Kashmir and Gorkhaland — it has begun tracking its hill regions. While China refurbishes its Silk Road nostalgia in various South Asian economic corridor initiatives, the railways are India’s stab at economic counter-militarisation in the Himalayas.

The Qinghai–Tibet railway line built by China – a link more a militarily oriented initiative than an economical viability factor which was built by China

Touted as a bid to facilitate tourism and commercial development in the Himachal and Kashmir regions, the 498-km-long Bilaspur-Leh railway network, rising to an altitude of 3,300 meters may be seen as a much-needed source of development in politically disturbed states of north India. However, the influence of China on the new developments in the Indian Railways, is hard to snub. Not simply due to the fact that the Bilaspur-Leh line will surpass China’s Qinghai-Tibet Railway (opened in 2006) — currently the world’s highest railway network — at a cost of about $350 million!

Economic militarisation

On June 27, railway minister Suresh Prabhu laid the foundation stone of the new broad gauge line at Leh. The Bilaspur-Leh railway network is recognised as one of the four strategic networks, touching upon the Indo-China border, by the Ministry of Defence.

In mid-May, this year, Nepal became a signatory to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is China’s daring foreign policy of economic militarisation — the dream of President Xi Jinping. It was announced in late 2013. Since then, nearly 70 countries from Asia, Africa, West Asia and Europe have joined in.

Today, its Maritime Silk Road Initiative — which is meant to connect China to Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa through a fast-network of roads, railways, ports and optic fiber lines — poses a strategic threat to India, especially in the Siliguri Corridor, courtesy the imminent political acquiescence of Nepal and Bhutan.

China’s attempts to inaugurate an embassy in Bhutan is a move to initiate its railway expansion through Bhutan, via West Bengal to Bangladesh. The Lhasa-Xigazê Railway is also slated to reach Kathmandu, via Tibet, and further south, close to the Sikkim border and Lumbini — too close for comfort for India.

The BRI comprises approximately 70 per cent of global population and Chinese money valued at $4 trillion. According to a World Bank estimate, Nepal may be in need of anything between $13 and $18 billion investment on its infrastructure to maintain its economic growth. This is where China — projected as the future universal donor in South and South East Asia — comes in.

Beijing’s “incursions” into South Asia do not end at Kathmandu. Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Myanmar have also fallen in line with the BRI policy. Political commentator, Wade Shepherd, describes this as a “romanticised rendering of the ancient Silk Road”.

Arguably, the roots of the brewing economic militaristic contest between China and India lie with the Pakistan-controlled territories of India, where Chinese investments aim to conjure in the messiah of industrial and technological development. Last month, citing reasons of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, India stayed away from Beijing’s BRI summit, attended by 120 countries.

Naturally, India stood out as the sole self-conscientious objector in the Belt initiatives, while itself being wounded inside a circuit of South Asian economic alliances.

India’s role for South Asia and itself

The context of a likely Indo-China railway war has been set in motion since Xi Jinping assumed office as the President of People’s Republic of China, in 2012. There have been allegations of Chinese troops crossing the Line of Actual Control, in 2013, 2014 (at the time of Xi’s India visit), and in each year until 2017. China has been aggressively non-committal at the United Nations Security Council, over proscribing Masood Azhar, the chief of the extremist outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammed. It has also voted against India’s full membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Beijing must have been distraught over India’s permission to the Dalai Lama to enter the monastery town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh earlier this April. Terming this as a “provocation”, Chinese foreign policy spokespersons “went ballistic, threatening India with dire consequences and asserting that India should remember that it is substantially weaker than China, both economically and militarily. Lecturing and criticising India on a number of foreign policy issues accompanied this”.

India’s role in South Asia is changing, dramatically. From being committed to the defence of a landlocked Nepal, to which it is also the largest seller of arms, to the Indian Military Training Team mission in Bhutan, which is in line with India’s policy of providing air defence to Bhutan and building strategic roadways, India has largely concentrated on a military infrastructure. Even the newly inaugurated Dhola-Sadiya bridge, connecting Assam and Arunachal Pradesh — India’s longest bridge — is more of a military asset than architectural or economic.

An aerial view of the newly inaugurated Dhola-Sadia bridge across River Brahmaputra in Assam

Tourism seems to be the buzzword for railway and bridge constructions in both the nations. In a cold race to this economic militarisation, it can only be desired that India does not fail to camouflage these developments as a domestic industry, rather than highlight them as a military expansion driven by foreign policy; such as what Kiren Rijiju, junior home minister said after the inauguration of the Dhola-Sadiya: “With China getting more and more aggressive, it is time we strengthened our physical infrastructure to defend our territory.”

The inevitable background — the conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir — is hard to be camouflaged, however. The reason for this is China’s prevailing interest in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, the Karakoram and the Siachen glacier. The latter is the destination for China’s most recently announced expedition, disguised as an exploration of climatic changes and biodiversity in the Tibet plateau.

Notwithstanding these provocations, India’s developmental strategy of railways in the Leh must not betray any sentiment of all its roads leading to Kashmir. Nor can it let sour its trade relations with China. Rather, its economic militarisation should first empower its own citizens and its neighboring nations — Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh — before they fall prey to Chinese infrastructure.

A very cold sun is setting on the desert frontiers Indo-China. Chinese expansions have shown India the way to lead into a post-modern war with a two hundred-year-old technology — the railways.

Can India’s railway expansions empower Nepal, Bhutan or Bangladesh with the same productivity in labour and technology that China promises?

If so, India can break the spell of taking in $500 worth imports for every $100 it exports to China — in the process being ensnared into the dragon’s lair.

Meghalaya CM proposes rail connectivity between Shillong and Sohra (Cherrapunjee)

SHILLONG: Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma has asked railway officials to work out plans and design for rail connectivity between Shillong and Sohra (Cherrapunjee).

Sangma, who held a review meeting with the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) officials on Thursday, said the proposed Shillong-Sohra railway link would provide new opportunities for the State and the people who would utilise the railway for high-end tourism destination and as separate facility for farmers.

Sohra, known as one of the wettest places on the earth, is about 50 km from Shillong, the State capital.

In 1895-96, the British Provincial Government of united Assam built the Cherra (Sohra) Companyganj State Railways and it was one of the first railway projects during that time.

It was a contemporary of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways or the “Toy Train” now listed as World Heritage.

“It will be the most sought after train ride for the people who would like to visit Meghalaya again and again. This will also provide a kind of train ride for couples enjoying their honeymoon or others celebrating their anniversary in the midst of beauty and nature,” Sangma told media persons.

The Meghalaya Government’s proposal for the Shillong-Sohra railway line is significant in the wake of the violent protests in Khasi-Jaintia Hills region opposing the ongoing railway project connecting Meghalaya’s Byrnihat in Ri Bhoi district with Assam’s Tetelia in Kamrup district.

Railways have been opposed in Meghalaya by Khasi Students’ Union, claiming that it would encourage influx.

“I have asked the railway authorities to work out modalities for putting in place facilities that would dispel apprehensions over influx and illegal immigrants,” Sangma said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated the first railway station at Mendipathar in the Garo Hills on November 30, 2014. The 19.47 km railway line will connect Mendipathar to Dudhnoi in Assam’s Goalpara district.

Railways halt construction work in Ri-Bhoi District

GUWAHATI:  The NorthEast Frontier railway has put construction work in Ri Bhoi district on hold after attack on construction sites last month.

Ri Bhoi deputy commissioner C P Gotmare said work was being put on hold by the railway authorities for now in view of the prevailing situation in the state.

“Work for the rail project inside Meghalaya is being put on hold as of now although not exactly because of the incident,” the deputy commissioner said.

The deputy commissioner said workers were a bid scared after the incident but railways authorities told him that work could not resume since heavy machineries are not available at the moment.

Railway authorities have put the loss at a little over Rs 70 lakh based on an assessment of the damaged machineries at the construction site, he said.

Remnants of the damage heavy machineries at Ronghona village are the only signs of constructions that had taken place prior to the attack led by protesting Khasi Students Union (KSU) activists in the last week of May.

The district deputy commissioner acknowledges that the “biggest challenge” yet would be identifying the genuine land owners in the absence of official records of rights unlike other states.

“In the absence of the records of rights, identification and verification of genuine land owners was generally done based on documents (land pattas) issued by the autonomous district council or traditional chiefs, and the ground assessment was carried out by revenue officials with the assistance of local headmen,” he said.

The 2.5 km-long line in the district is to connect to another 10 km in Assam s Tetelia station and would have been the beginning of a railway connection with the state capital.

Estimated at a cost of around Rs 496 crore, the length of the railway line within Meghalaya is to connect to the state capital in the near future.

The KSU had opposed the proposed railway line to Khasi and Jaintia hills of the state demanding the government to put in place a strong mechanism to check influx of outsiders into the state.

Ri Bhoi and Shillong police have arrested at least nine KSU leaders and members for their alleged involvement following incidents of attack at the railway project site at Ronghona village and in the state capital.

Meanwhile the deputy commissioner, who had relaxed the prohibitory order earlier, has re-imposed the order under section 144 CrPC in the entire district at night between 6 pm and 6 am restricting assembly of more than five persons at any government premises/offices/government organisations.

Tripura CM stresses for speedy completion of Rail links in the North-East Region

New Delhi/Agartala: Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar on Monday urged the Centre for increased railway connectivity of India’s northeast, including through Bangladesh and Myanmar, for the region’s development.

“Early completion of the proposed 15-km Agartala-Akhaura rail link and rail connectivity with Bangladesh needs to be expedited,” Sarkar said at the 66th plenary meeting of the North Eastern Council (NEC) in New Delhi.

He said: “Access to Chittagong port in Bangladesh via Tripura’s border town of Sabroom – a distance of only 75 km – needs to be ensured as early as possible. The survey and execution of rail link between Agartala and Kalay in Myanmar also needs to be taken up with all seriousness.”

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and his Bangladeshi counterpart Mazibul Hoque jointly laid the foundation stone for the Agartala (India)-Akhaura (Bangladesh) railway project here on July 31 last year.

The project was finalised in January 2010 during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s meeting with her Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. Land acquisition is now underway in Tripura for the project.

The Tripura Chief Minister said that the per-capita income in the northeastern states is low as compared to the national level. There is low production and productivity in agriculture and allied sectors, which are the primary source of income and occupation in the region.

Bid to keep Darjeeling Himalayan Railways alive as functioning Heritage Site: NFR signs MOU with HECL

NFR signs MoU with HECL for supply of spare parts for steam engine!

DARJEELING: Maligaon-headquartered Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MoU) with Heavy Engineering Corporation Ltd (HECL), a Government of India enterprise under the Department of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, under which HECL has agreed to manufacture and develop items and equipment for the world heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR).

The MoU is for a period of five years for supply of items including spares of Narrow Gauge Steam locomotives and development of steam boiler for Narrow Gauge Steam locomotives to NFR. The MoU can be extended after completion of five years.

The MoU was signed by HECL Chairman-cum-Managing Director Avijit Ghosh and NFR Chief Mechanical Engineer (O&F) Boniface Lakra at N F Railway Headquarters here in the presence of Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain, NFR General Manager Chahatey Ram, General Manager – Construction Organization H K Jaggi and other senior officials.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee had declared DHR as a World Heritage Site in 1999. DHR comes under NFR.

Speaking on the occasion, Gohain said that the MoU will help in keeping alive the DHR as a “functioning heritage site”. He said that spare parts for steam locomotives are very rare to come by the MoU will ensure that such spare parts are made available to NFR by a public sector firm.
Ram, in his speech, described DHR as a “jewel” for NFR and added that it is the only working heritage railway in the world.

HECL would supply 41 critical spare components for the available steam locomotives and thus they would remain ever operational, Gohain said.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was bestowed with World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 1999 for “bold and ingenious engineering solutions to the problem of establishing an effective rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty”, an N F Railway spokesman said.

Stating the UNESCO had observed that DHR “retains most of its original features intact”, the spokesman said the mission of N F Railway is to conserve the DHR Heritage by keeping steam traction alive for people to get a feel of the glorious past.

Since inception, the small Steam Locomotives, known as “B” class engines have been the mainstay of DHR and are also major tourist attractions, he said.

“NFR is lucky to have this asset and it is our responsibility to keep it running. The last steam locomotives were made in 1925 and the challenge is to keep them operating. So we approached HECL to save this pride of our nation and to ensure regular supply of spare parts for DHR,” Ram said.

The NFR GM added that earnings from DHR touched Rs 7.6 crore in the 2016-17 fiscal as against Rs 5 crore in 2015-16 and the target for the current financial year in Rs 10 crore. “Our aim is to make DHR financially viable by March 2020,” Ram said.

He added that NFR will start receiving parts from HECL within six months. “Within the next one week we also expect to introduce daily service from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling under DHR,” Ram said.

HECL’s Ghosh said that the PSU will soon send its design team to NFR to figure out the designs and requirements for DHR and ensured that a time bound action plan will be put in place.

“We are committed to meet the requirement of NFR,” Ghosh said.

There are 13 ‘B’ class steam locomotives available in DHR at present and majority of them are over a hundred years old. “Keeping them operational and keeping the original features of the locos intact pose a big challenge for DHR as most of the original manufacturers no longer produce such locos or spare. The mission of NFR is to conserve the DHR heritage by keeping the steam traction alive for people to get a feel of the glorious past,” said an NFR official.

As a solution HECL has agreed to manufacture/develop items/equipment for the steam locomotives of DHR in the following areas (1) Spares of Narrow Gauge Steam locomotives (2) Development of Steam boiler for Narrow Gauge Steam Locomotives, and accordingly has decided to enter into an MoU with N F Railway for supply of the two items for five years.

The signing of MoU today will ensure steady supply of spares for the steam locomotive fleets of DHR, which in turn will ensure optimum and efficient utilization of the locomotives for sustainability of DHR, he said.

It will go a long way in turning around DHR towards making it commercially viable, the spokesman added.

Lumding-Silchar BG Rail line declared operational after corrective steps taken by Railways

SILCHAR: Warning of “catastrophic disaster”, the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) concluded in the middle of 2015 that the Lumding-Silchar broad-gauge link in Assam, a key arterial track in the Northeast, posed a “danger to travelling public”. This was the first red flag. Documents show that at least three more other senior Railway officials cited the safety warning and raised objections over the line. The Railway Ministry opened the line to passenger trains in November that year. Just four months later, the line had to be shut for three months following two back-to-back derailments of passenger trains amid landslides and rainfall — there were no casualties.

The line was re-opened in August 2016, after some corrective measures were taken, and the track has been in operation since then.

When contacted, H K Jaggi, General Manager, Northeast Frontier Railway Construction Organisation (NFRCO), which built the line, said, “There were derailments due to slippage in the ghat section, which is common. The line has been functioning without any incident for over a year now. Now we have identified 14 locations for patrolling… instrumentation in many places has also been done.”

The link has 79 major and 340 minor bridges, and 21 tunnels. In his report, submitted in July 2015, S Nayak, the CRS, wrote: “Having inspected the Broad Gauge line…and having various technical discussions with Railway officials including detailed correspondences made with Railway Administration, I am of the opinion that the newly converted BG single line between New Haflong-Ditokcherra-Badarpur-Silchar can’t be opened for passenger traffic without danger to travelling public…”

The clearance by CRS, a statutory safety regulator under the Civil Aviation Ministry, is mandatory for opening any line for passenger operations.

On April 19, 2016, eight months after the CRS report, the Chief Bridge Engineer shut the line for two days for passenger trains, citing safety issues. On April 23, the Poorvottar Sampark Kranti Express from New Delhi to Silchar derailed between Ditokcherra and Banderkhal. On April 26, the train, on its return leg, derailed between Mahur and Phiding.

The 210-km section provides subsequent connectivity to Manipur on one side and Mizoram on the other. Lumding and Silchar were originally connected by a metre gauge line. The broad gauge project started around 1997, as part of a Rs 3,500-crore National Project. However, around 52 km of the new line was diverted through a geologically challenging stretch in the hills of the Indo-Burma range.

Stressing that any corrective measure would only bring “limited relief”, Nayak’s report stated: “The stability of the formation, tunnels, bridges, need to be holistically reviewed by a team of experts in geo-technology and structural engineering both in-house and from outside to formulate Action Plan for immediate short term and long term satisfactory performance… any failure in the critical section [New Haflong-Ditokcherra hill section] has potential for a catastrophic disaster, Railway Administration is urged to consider every possible risk and systematically address its mitigation.”

Following the CRS verdict, the NFRCO sent a letter to the Railway Board claiming that Nayak’s observations had been complied with. But this letter, sent within a week after the CRS report was received, did not include the consent of two key officials concerned — the Chief Bridge Engineer and the Chief Track Engineer.

On July 29, 2015, records show, the Railway Board sanctioned the opening of the line by “condoning” some of the relatively minor issues flagged by the CRS, such as non-standard length of sleeper and non-provision of “catch-siding and slip siding”.

Then came the second and third red flags. The then general manager of Northeast Frontier Railway, R S Virdi, refused to open the line stating that the CRS stipulations had not been fully complied with. R K Gupta, who succeeded Virdi, refused to move on the line, too, citing the same reason.

Following Gupta’s departure in October, the line was opened after a safety certificate was obtained from the new zonal general manager, based on a report from the NFRCO, which asserted that stipulations laid down by the CRS had been complied with.

However, within a few months, a fourth red flag came up, this time from the Chief Bridge Engineer of the Northeast Frontier Railway, Alok Kumar Verma.

In January 2016, in an internal note to the general manager, Verma wrote: “…the conditions for stability are most unfavourable and there is a serious threat to the safety of trains from the instability of the bridges, tunnels and high cuttings/embankments which together comprise 90 per cent of the route length… Unfortunately, geology has been cursorily dealt with in deciding the location and alignment….”

Officials told that the old meter gauge line was on the Meghalaya Plateau, where the tracks had “a solid footing”. Parts of the new “diverted alignment”, between New Haflong and Ditokcherra, is on an area mainly formed of shale, the soft sedimentary rock formed from consolidated mud or clay, they said.

When contacted, V K Gupta, the then Railway Board Member (Engineering), who is credited with completing the gauge conversion, denied that safety issues were overlooked.

“It never happens that the CRS says the line is unsafe and the Railways overrules it. The CRS might make certain observations, but they are complied with following which the lines are opened,” he said.

“The general manager signs the safety certificate and it carries signatures of at least 25 other senior officials of the zonal railways. If point A has to be connected with point B, many things can come in the way, be it folds, be it faults,” said Gupta.

“The area in question sees rainfall for six months during which time there might be landslides and other things. But there is a difference between a line being structurally unsafe and routine maintenance issues. The old meter gauge line used to be shut for months,” he said.

Official sources claimed that the Railway Ministry was “in a hurry” to open the line because the Assam assembly elections were due in April 2016, but Gupta denied this charge. Incidentally, after his retirement from service in 2016, Gupta was appointed as an Adviser to Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.

A.K.Mittal, who succeeded Gupta as Member (Engineering) said, “The matter you are referring to happened much before I took charge, but I can tell you generally that the Himalayas have an unpredictable geology and there can be surprises. But that’s a natural phenomenon everywhere. Now if you see, the line is functional without any problems.”

HEC signs MOU with NFR for manufacturing & supply of Components for Darjeeling Himalayan Toy Train

GUWAHATI: A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on Friday by the Northeast Frontier Railway with Heavy Engineering Corporation Limited (HECL) for supply of spare parts for century-old steam locomotives of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR).

The MoU was signed by HECL Chairman-cum-Managing Director Avijit Ghosh and NFR Chief Mechanical Engineer (O&F) Boniface Lakra at N F Railway Headquarters in Guwahati, Assam in the presence of Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain, NFR General Manager Chahatey Ram, General Manager – Construction Organization H K Jaggi and other senior officials.

Speaking on the occasion, Rajen Gohain said today is an important day in conservation history of Railways as the signing of MoU would ensure that the Heritage-era steam locomotives would never die out. HECL would supply 41 critical spare components for the available steam locomotives and thus they would remain ever operational, Gohain said.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was bestowed with World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 1999 for “bold and ingenious engineering solutions to the problem of establishing an effective rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty”, an N F Railway spokesman said.

Stating the UNESCO had observed that DHR “retains most of its original features intact”, the spokesman said the mission of N F Railway is to conserve the DHR Heritage by keeping steam traction alive for people to get a feel of the glorious past. Since inception, the small Steam Locomotives, known as “B” class engines have been the mainstay of DHR and are also major tourist attractions, he said.

Stating there are 13 “B” class steam locomotives available in DHR at present and majority of them are more than 100 years old, he said keeping them operational and retaining the original features of the locos intact pose a big challenge for DHR as most of original manufacturer no longer produce such locos or spares.

As a solution HECL has agreed to manufacture/develop items/equipment for the steam locomotives of DHR in the following areas (1) Spares of Narrow Gauge Steam locomotives (2) Development of Steam boiler for Narrow Gauge Steam Locomotives, and accordingly has decided to enter into an MoU with N F Railway for supply of the two items for five years.

The signing of MoU will ensure steady supply of spares for the steam locomotive fleets of DHR, which in turn will ensure optimum and efficient utilization of the locomotives for sustainability of DHR, he said. It will go a long way in turning around DHR towards making it commercially viable, the spokesman added.

Curtain fall for Inter-Railway Cultural (Drama) competitions

GUWAHATI: The Inter-Railway Cultural (Drama) competition was held at Rang Bhawan here at Maligaon from May 10 to 12.

Teams from all zonal Railways and production units under Indian Railways participated in the three-day event.

Dramas were performed in various languages like Assamese, Malayalam, Kannada, Bhojpuri and Bengali.

The competition was judged by Abinash Sharma, Nayan Prashad and Robijita Gogoi, all eminent drama artistes.

In the concluding function, Chahatey Ram, General Manager of NF Railway gave away the prizes to the winners.

Central Railway’s drama Tamasha of Humanity was adjudged the best drama in the competition.

Northern Railway’s drama Gabarchichor was adjudged as the second-best drama, while Northeast Frontier Railway’s drama Deogharar Swapna was adjudged as the third-best drama. The best actor award went to Mihir Kumar Mishra of East Coast Railway, while the best actress award went to Meera Sikdar of North Eastern Railway (Gorakhpur).

Northeast Frontier Railway’s Mantu Kumar Das won the best director award.

Best jury award for acting went to Diganta Kakati and Anindita Das of Northeast Frontier Railway. Utpal Nandi of Northeast Frontier Railway won the best light designer award.

Retired Railway Servants of NFR resent move to lower Interest Rates on small savings

GUWAHATI: The Northeast Frontier Railway Pensioners’ Association has resented the government’s decision to lower interest rates of various small savings schemes of the Indian Postal Service.

Interest on small saving schemes like PPF, Kisan Vikas Patra and Sukanya Samriddhi scheme has been curtailed by 0.1 per cent for the April-June quarter and investments in the Public Provident Fund scheme and the 5-year National Savings Certificate will now fetch a lower annual rate of 7.9 per cent as against the existing 8 per cent.

Kisan Vikas Patra will bring in 7.6 per cent and mature in 112 months. Sukanya Samriddhi scheme for the girl child will now offer 8.4 per cent, the same as the 5-year Senior Citizens Savings scheme.

The NFRPA also disapproved of the move by the State Bank of India and its now-merged associates to raise the minimum average balance in accounts to Rs 5,000 in the six metros.

“Even for the urban and semi-urban branches, the MAB (minimum account balance) has been fixed at Rs 3,000 and Rs 2,000 respectively and in case of rural branches, the minimum balance has been fixed at Rs 1,000. Breach of MAB will attract a penalty ranging between Rs 20 and Rs 50, which will be effective from 1 April. The association believes that taking this cue other commercial banks will also follow suit,” the association said in a statement.

The association felt that the worst hit by these calibrations will be none other than the poor and the senior citizens who depend for their livelihood on the small income from small savings on their life’s earning. It urged the government to reconsider these moves and withdraw them with immediate effect.

Board will discuss the bifurcation of NFR – Separate Railway Zone for North-East likely: Railway Minister

GUWAHATI: There has been a demand to bifurcate the NFR by excluding West Bengal and Bihar to focus only the North Eastern region. The Railway Ministry may discuss and look into the issue of bifurcation of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) zone and creating a separate zone which will have jurisdiction solely over the seven northeastern states while the existing areas of NFR located in West Bengal and Bihar could be turned into a different zonal railway, said Railway Minister Mr.Suresh Prabhu on Saturday. “We will discuss it. We will definitely consider,” Prabhu said when asked about any plans to finalise bifurcation of NFR in the Board. “It is a broader issue of demography and other things. It takes time, but we will definitely look into it,” the Minister said.

Speaking at a press conference after participating in the commencement of the railway electrification work between Raninagar Jalpaiguri and Guwahati at Maligaon this evening, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said that bifurcation or reorganisation of the NFR is part of a broader issue of development of the Northeast.

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To a question put by the media, if the Railway Minister would consider bifurcating the NFR and separating the areas of the Northeast from those of Bihar and West Bengal, the minister said, “We will discuss it. We will discuss whatever inputs we receive.”

Bifurcation of Maligaon-headquartered NFR with a separate zonal railway responsible solely for the seven northeastern states has been a long-standing demand of the people of Assam and other states of the region as well as various organisations, including the Assam Rail Passengers’ Association (APRA).

People and organisations of the Northeast have frequently alleged that most of the benefits, projects as well as railway vacancies are cornered by the NFR divisions falling in Bihar and West Bengal, while the seven states of the region remain deprived.

Earlier, Prabhu participated in a centralised event to mark the commencement of railway electrification work between Raninagar Jalpaiguri and Guwahati. The event also witnessed the commissioning of a 700-Kwp solar power plant at Guwahati Railway Station, inauguration of first class and second class waiting halls at Harmuti station, and inauguration of the RO Plant and Digital Chart Display System at the New Tinsukia station.

Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd, a Mini Ratna PSU under the Ministry of Railways, has been entrusted with the task of execution of the electrification project at a total cost of Rs 655.55 crore. Under it, the 382-km route will be electrified.

Prabhu said the Railway Ministry will also consider introduction of a special train that will cover all the major holy places visited by Mahapurush Srimanta Sankaradeva during his years of wandering across the country.

Prabhu’s comments in this regard came after Governor Banwarilal Purohit, during his speech at the function, urged the Railway Minister to introduce such a train which will cover all the major religious spots visited by Srimanta Sankaradeva.

Prabhu said the Northeast is the major area of focus for the Indian Railways. He said the Centre has invested Rs 19,000 crore in the railway sector in the region during last three years and a capital expenditure target of Rs 8,000 crore has been fixed for the region during the current 2017-18 fiscal.

The minister said that projects worth Rs 13,000 crore have been sanctioned for the region in 2017-18. The gauge conversion work in the Northeast has been completed, he said, adding, a special train will be started to promote tourism in the region.

Prabhu said his ministry is also working for promotion of the handicraft industry of the region as well as for self-help groups and medium, small and micro industries of the Northeast.

He said special focus has been given to generate employment in the Northeast and as part of the new catering policy of the Indian Railways, stalls and establishments at stations will be allowed to be opened only by those who have domicile certificates.

Prabhu said such steps can go a long way in addressing the employment issue among local youths of the region.

Prabhu assures BG connectivity in all States in NE – flags off Naharlagun-Guwahati Shatabdi Exp

Projects worth about Rs. 90,000 crore being executed in northeast India: said Suresh Prabhu while also announced commencement of work of the much-awaited Railway Electrification from Raninagar Jalpaiguri to Guwahati.

Naharlagun (Arunachal Pradesh): Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today flagged off the Naharlagun-Guwahati Shatabdi Express and laid the foundation of the Murkongselek-Pasighat broad gauge line in Arunachal Pradesh. Suresh Prabhu, who is on a two day visit to Northeast India, laid the foundation stone for construction of a 26-km-long new broad gauge railway line from Mukongselek in Assam to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh.

Commencement of surveys for seven new lines in the state was also announced by the union minister through video conferencing from the NFR headquarters at Maligaon in Guwahati. These surveys are in addition to the surveys already announced for strategic lines connecting Tawang, Along and Parsuramkund in Arunachal, and are targeted for completion by December 2018. Total survey length of seven new lines is around 594 km.

Out of the 26.15 km railway track from Murkongselek in Dhemaji district of Assam to Pasighat in East Siang district of Arunachal, 23.55 km line falls in the state with three railway stations – Sille, Rani and Pasighat, railway officials said.

There would be 24 major and 35 minor bridges in the track which was sanctioned last year with an estimated cost of Rs 414.85 crore.

The seven new lines in the state for which reconnaissance engineering cum traffic survey commenced are Lekhapani-Kharsang (25 km), Itakhola-Seijosa (18 km), Doomdooma-Namsai-Wakro (96 km), Dangri-Roing (60 km), Deomali-Naharkatia (20 km), Lekhapani-Miao-Deban (75 km) and Tinsukia-Pasighat via Simaluguri and Kanubari (300 km).

Suresh Prabhu said that his ministry is committed to connect all states of the North East with Broad Gauge lines and lay BG lines in 8.5 lakh km across the country within five years.

“Connectivity in the North East is the priority of the Centre and efforts are on for electrification of all BG lines in the region in the next five years,” the minister said after flagging off a train and laying foundation of a project through video conferencing from the NFR headquarters at Maligaon in Guwahati.

Since NDA has come to power in 2014 railway projects worth Rs 90,000 crore have been undertaken for all the states of the region, he said.

“During 2016-17 the railway ministry introduced 26 new trains for the North East,” he said.

He also announced commencement of surveys for seven new lines in the state.

The seven new lines in the state for which reconnaissance engineering cum traffic survey commenced are Lekhapani-Kharsang (25 km), Itakhola-Seijosa (18 km), Doomdooma-Namsai-Wakro (96 km), Dangri-Roing (60 km), Deomali-Naharkatia (20 km), Lekhapani-Miao-Deban (75 km) and Tinsukia-Pasighat via Simaluguri and Kanubari (300 km).

Minister of State for Railways, Rajen Gohain assured to complete the survey works of seven BG lines by December next year.

The minister also assured to complete the work on Murkongselek-Pasighat BG line by 2018.

Union Minister Kiren Rijiju said the new lines would give a fillip to the industrial corridor in the state.

Stating that real inroads of railways to the state began in 2015 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the Naharlagun-New Delhi Express train and alleged that the state was earlier neglected.

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu said that through railway connectivity, the agri-horti sectors in the state would receive a major boost.

Prabhu on Saturday announced commencement of work of the much-awaited Railway Electrification from Raninagar Jalpaiguri to Guwahati.

He announced that the Railways will consider running a tourist train connecting all the places visited by great Vaishnavite Saint, Srimanta Sankardev.

Good response prompts NF Railway to plan running more DEMU Trains

GUWAHATI: Maligaon-headquartered Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has received positive response from the commuters for its Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) trains on the short-distance routes and the zonal railway is now looking to increase the number of such rakes.

“Local short distance passengers have wholeheartedly welcomed the introduction of DEMU trains. With the passage of time, we expect it will become even more popular. There is a plan to convert all passenger trains running presently into DEMU trains,” PJ Sharma, Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of NFR told.

DEMU trains were first started in Assam in 1996 in the Guwahati-New Bongaigaon-Fakiragram section, but later had to be withdrawn due to technical glitches.

Last year, these trains were again introduced between Fakiragram and New Jalpaiguri and later DEMU services in upper Assam started in Tinsukia Division.

In Assam, DEMU services are presently operating on Guwahati-New Bongaigaon-Guwahati, Guwahati-Haibargaon-Guwahati, Guwahati-Silghat Town-Guwahati and Ledo-Tinsukia-Dibrugarh Town-Tinsukia-Ledo routes.

“Three rakes are in operation under Tinsukia Division. Another 8-9 rakes are in operation on rotational basis throughout NFR, including Guwahati. The number of DEMU rakes is expected to increase with the increase in demand. Planning is made accordingly,” Sharma said
With regard to local services from Guwahati, Sharma said, “NFR is already running DEMU trains from Guwahati to New Bongaigaon, Haiborgaon, Silghat areas. Other areas will be covered in due course of time.”

Sharma said that the introduction of DEMU has been a well-planned exercise with well-located maintenance facilities and there have been no logistical or operational problems so far.

The DEMU trains running presently are having eight coaches each, including engines at both ends. On an average more than 750 passenger can be accommodated in the entire train. In conventional coaches of passenger trains the capacity is about seven per cent lower.

“With the progress of electrification, the DEMU rakes in turn will be replaced by Mainline Electric Multiple Unit (MEMU) trains which are like DEMU rakes which ply in electrified territory. NFR has plans to replace all conventional passenger rakes (short distance day journey rakes) with DEMU/MEMU rakes. However, no schedule for this replacement has yet been fixed,” said Sharma.

He added that as the DEMU train is more convenient for faster movement of short-distance passengers, NFR is also likely to replace normal conventional passenger trains running in other north-eastern states by new DEMU trains in coming years.

DEMU refers to rakes mostly used for short-distance suburban train services, which have coaches with multiple prime movers, either electric motors or diesel engines, for each coach.

“The same coach that carries passengers also has the motive power as opposed to the normal situation where the passengers are in coaches that are not self-propelling and a locomotive hauls the train. A DEMU train is a multiple-unit train powered by on-board diesel engines. DEMU requires no separate engine or locomotive, as the engines are incorporated into one of the carriages,” said the NFR CPRO.

He added that local passenger services are ideally suited to be of DEMU type for its inherent advantages.

“As the DEMU train can ply in both directions, it does not require any cumbersome engine reversal at terminal stations. The interior of a DEMU coach is designed keeping the need of short-distance commuter traffic in mind. Wider aisle area for standing passenger, broader seats with better cushioning, etc., have been provided,” Sharma said.

Assam gets its first Shatabdi Express as MOS (Railways) Rajen Gohain flags-off train from Dibrugarh

DIBRUGARH: Assam on Sunday got its first Shatabdi Express with Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain flagging off the train from Dibrugarh. The new Shatabdi Express train (No. 12085/12086) will run between Dibrugarh and Guwahati. “There was a long-standing demand for better rail connectivity with Guwahati from Dibrugarh and the Dibrugarh-Guwahati Shatabdi Express would fulfil that demand of the people,” said Gohain while flagging off the train. The Shatabdi Express trains are among the fastest and most prestigious trains of the Indian Railways along with Rajdhani and Duronto trains which connect metro cities with other important cities from the point of view of tourism, pilgrimage or business.

“The train would have latest fully air-conditioned LHB Coaches to provide safety and extra comfort. Travellers would be provided with bottled water, juice, coffee or tea, and meals relevant to time of day of the journey,” said the minister. He also called upon the people of the region, specially the rail users, to take care of railway property and consider it to be their own. He appealed to the people not to damage the interior or exterior of a beautiful train like Shatabdi and keep it clean.

The Shatabdi Express trains are among the fastest and most prestigious trains of the Indian Railways along with Rajdhani and Duronto trains which connect metro cities with other important cities from the point of view of tourism, pilgrimage or business.

“The train would have latest fully air-conditioned LHB Coaches to provide safety and extra comfort. Travellers would be provided with bottled water, juice, coffee or tea, and meals relevant to time of day of the journey,” said the minister.

He also called upon the people of the region, specially the rail users, to take care of railway property and consider it to be their own. He appealed to the people not to damage the interior or exterior of a beautiful train like Shatabdi and keep it clean.

Saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi placed special emphasis on the development of the northeastern region, Gohain assured the state that the Railways would continue to work for development in the region.

The train will have 10 AC Chair Car coaches and 2 luggage-cum-generator cars. The train will have seven intermediate stoppages. The total fare, which includes charges for food, for one adult passenger from Guwahati to Dibrugarh will be Rs.1,095 and between Dibrugarh and Guwahati will be Rs.1,010.

Indo-Bangla Railway project work to begin by September

AGARTALA: Construction work for the Indo-Bangla railway network is likely to start in August or September next with West Tripura district administration carrying out land acquisition on priority basis, according to official sources.

West Tripura district administration has already begun land acquisition process for the ambitious Agratala-Gangasagar (Bangladesh) rail project and is expected to get completed by next two-and-a-half months, said Land Acquisition Officer (LAO), West Tripura PK Deb here on Wednesday.

As per the alignment approved by Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), plots measuring 60 acres of 200 families would be acquired for the land extension project. “We are according top priority to complete land acquisition process at the earliest”, he said.

NFR has already released Rs 97 crore for land acquisition for the railway extension project connecting Agartala with Gangasagar (Bangladesh), said deputy chief engineer of NFR BN Bhaskar here.

“Once required land is provided to us, NFR will undertake construction of rail track (elevated corridor) to connect both sides of the border within a month”, he said.

Bhaskar said from Agartala station to Badharghat area would be elevated corridor, while track will be laid on the ground from Charipara to Nischintpur, a border area of Sadar subdivision.

According to experts, elevated corridor has been planned to save land keeping in mind of the densely populated area and this will obviously reduce the total project cost.

In Indian side, the track will be around 5 km while remaining 10 km railway track will be laid on Bangladesh side and IRCON will execute the 10 km track as per the plan.

The estimated cost of the project stands at Rs 968 crore and it is as part of Indo-Bangla railway network which is in turn a part of Trans-Asian network plan, according to experts.

In his last visit to the State, Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain had said there would be no dearth of fund to complete the Indo-Bangla railway project and it is a priority railway project.

Northeast Frontier Railway (Construction Wing) wins National Award “Engineering Construction Shield-2017”

Maligaon-headquartered Northeast Frontier Railway Construction Organisation won the prestigious ‘Engineering Construction Shield-2017’ in the recently concluded 62nd Railway National Awards Function 2017 held at Naya Raipur, Chhattisgarh.

HK Jaggi, General Manager of NFR (Construction) and other senior officials from Maligaon received the shield from Railway Minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu, said a statement issued here today.

Every year the Railway National Awards function is held by the Ministry of Railways to felicitate individuals and departments for their outstanding performances in their respective fields.

NFR Construction Organisation has won this prestigious shield for the sixth time and consecutively for the third time.

Apart from winning the shield, three officers NFR (Construction) also won individual awards for their outstanding performances during this year in their respective fields.

Northeast Frontier Railway tops in passenger traffic growth

AGARTALA: The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) topped among 19 railway zones by registering a record growth in passenger traffic in 2016-17, an official said on Thursday.

“NFR recorded a 6.22 per cent growth in passenger traffic which is the highest growth rate among all zones,” NFR’s Chief Public Relations Officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma said.

He said the main source of earnings for railways is from freight traffic and the Railway Board fixes yearly target of freight as well as passenger traffic revenue for each zone.

In 2016-17 fiscal, the earning of NFR from goods traffic stood at Rs 1,706.85 crore, which is 9.50 per cent more than the Railway Board target of Rs 1,558.73 crore.

Earnings from passenger traffic totalled Rs 1,043.17 crore, which is 3.79 per cent more than the targeted Rs 1,005.07 crore.

The NFR, set up in 1958, serves seven districts in West Bengal and five districts in north Bihar besides the eight northeastern states.

The NFR recorded the highest ever scrap sale of Rs 115.35 crore in the last fiscal.

Of the 505 stations under NFR’s jurisdiction, 15 have been provided with mechanised cleaning.

CCTV monitoring is done at eight stations: Guwahati, Dimapur, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Alipurduar, New Jalpaiguri, Katihar and Jogbani.

Centre sanctions 8 Railway projects in Arunachal Pradesh

ITANAGAR: Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu today welcomed the sanctioning of eight new railway lines connecting several locations in the foothills of the strategically-located mountainous State by the Centre, including the three proposed railway lines extending to Tawang, Aalo and the one connecting Pasighat-Roing-Tezu.

On insistence from the Chief Minister, the eight new railway lines – Itakhola to Seijosa (18 km), Doomdooma-Namsai-Wakro (96 km), Dangri-Roing (60 km) Naharkatia-Deomali (20 km), Lekhapani-Nampong-New Khamlang-Deben (75 km) and Tinsukia to Pasighat via Kanubari (300 km) were sanctioned by the Ministry of Railways, informed a press release issued by the CMO here.

Terming it as “a dream come true”, the Chief Minister expressed that ultimately things have started to move when the General Manager of Northeast Frontier Railway (Construction), HK Jaggi along with his officials called on Khandu at his office here today.

The Chief Minister thanked the Prime Minister and the Railway Ministry for sanctioning of these projects in a meeting attended by WRD Minister Kamlung Mossang.

“I have to complement the Railway Ministry for the decision. The Centre has been kind in accepting our proposals,” he said and added that it was a very courageous decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to extend railway network till Tawang.

Preliminary survey for the three railway lines – Bhalukpong-Tenga-Tawang (378 km), North Lakhimpur-Bame-Aalo-Silapathar (247.85 km) and Pasighat-Roing-Tezu-Parsuram Kund-Rupai (227 km) – has already completed and detailed location survey will commence soon, informed the visiting Railway officials. It was also informed that the survey for the eight railway lines has been sanctioned.

The Chief Minister requested the Railway officials for posting of a dedicated Chief Engineer (Survey) for Arunachal to monitor the ongoing survey works to which they agreed.

Of the three railway lines, the Bhalukpong-Tenga-Tawang route, is the most ambitious project proposed to be constructed at a cost of about Rs 40,000 crore, which will involve construction of 21 bridges and 145 kms of tunnels. The Indian Railways proposes to construct a 29-km tunnel between Dirang and Tawang. It is estimated that the entire railway route, when completed, will cut down the existing road distance of 285 km to 166 km, informed the Railway official.

The survey of Pasighat-Tezu-Parashuram Kund-Rupai line is expected to complete early as the area is plain land with no high steep mountains to cut through, informed the Railway officials.

The Railway officials also gave presentation on the status of the 26-km Murkongselek-Pasighat rail line for which the land to be acquired has been identified and is on the process of acquisition.

Dhubri-Phulbari Rail-cum-Road Bridge Sangram Committee  meet Railway Minister and submits Memorandum for construction of a rail-cum-road bridge connecting Dhubri with Phulbari in Meghalaya

A six-member team from the Dhubri-Phulbari Rail-cum-Road Bridge Sangram Committee from Guwahati recently met Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in New Delhi.

The delegation submitted a memorandum to the Railway Minister requesting him to consider construction of a rail-cum-road bridge to connect Dhubri with Phulbari in Meghalaya, instead of the proposed road bridge over the Brahmaputra.

Appreciating the delegation for bringing up the matter, Prabhu said that he will consider it. This was stated in a press statement issued by the Dhubri-Phulbari Rail-cum-Road Bridge Sangram Committee.

India to conduct Survey for new Rail Line with Bangladesh

Tripura-Bangladesh rail links to improve connectivity for NE. Plans to connect Tripura with Bangladesh from three sides, MOS (Railways) Gohain said.

AGARTALA: New Delhi will carry out a survey to lay one more new railway line between India and Bangladesh to access the Chittagong international sea port and ease connectivity with the landlocked northeast region, a minister said here on Thursday.

“Indian railway would soon conduct a survey to obtain basic details to lay a 125-km new railway line from southern Tripura’s border town Belonia to Chittagong international sea port in (southeast) Bangladesh,” Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain told reporters.

The Railways Ministry is now exploring the possibility of connecting Tripura with Bangladesh in three sides to remove communication bottleneck of the entire Northeastern region, said Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain.

““We have already sanctioned a project to connect Agartala with Gangasagar in Bangladesh. We are now exploring the possibility of connecting Belonia, the southernmost town of Tripura with Chittagong Port of Bangladesh through Feni district of the neighbouring country. Another route will connect Sabroom with Chittagong Port”, Gohain told reporters here on Thursday.

Of the 125-km line, five km falls in India and the rest in Bangladesh. The proposed railway line via (Bangladesh’s) Feni town aims to access the Chittagong international sea port for the benefit of the mountainous northeast India,” Gohain said.

After meeting Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy and Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, the minister said New Delhi is now in consultation with Bangladesh to finalise the modalities of the survey.

The Belonia-Chittagong proposed railway line would be the second railway project in northeast India connecting Bangladesh after the Agartala-Akhaura railway line.

The minister, who came here on Wednesday and visited various under-construction railway projects in Tripura, said the actual work for the 15-km-long Agartala-Akhaura railway line would start from May this year and would be completed within 30 months.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and Bangladesh Rail Minister Majibul Haque jointly laid the foundation stone here on July 31 last year for the Rs 973-crore Agartala-Akhaura railway project, adding the Indian side was being funded by Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) while Ministry of External Affairs is financing the Bangladesh portion.

Gohain said the government-owned Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) would lay he 5-km railway track on the Indian side (in Tripura) while the remaining 10 km on the Bangladesh side would be laid by the Bangladesh railway.

However, IRCON would be project management consultant of the Bangladesh railway board.

The minister said the 1,613-km mountainous distance between Agartala and Kolkata via Guwahati-New Jalpaiguri-Kishanganj (Bihar)-Malda would be reduced to 514 km through Bangladesh once the Agartala-Akhaura rail track is established. Currently, India and Bangladesh have four rail links with West Bengal.

According to the official, 123.5 acres of land, including 56.5 acres in India, will be acquired to execute the project to facilitate carriage of goods to and from both countries.

The Agartala-Akhaura railway project, which was sanctioned in the 2012-13 railway budget, would be part of the Trans-Asian Railway network and provide a much shorter connectivity from northeastern states to Kolkata via Bangladesh.

The Indian government would bear the entire expenditure of the project, which also figured during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina during his visit to Dhaka in June 2015.

Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) General Manager (Construction) H.K. Jaggi said the Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Ministry has released funds to the Tripura government to acquire land in Tripura and the land acquisition would be completed by April.

“The land acquisition would also be completed in Bangladesh by July this year,” said Jaggi, who accompanied the minister. The existing railway line from Guwahati passes through Lumding in Nagaon district (in central Assam) and southern Assam connecting Agartala and parts of Manipur and Mizoram with the rest of the country.

“India and Bangladesh which are strategically vital nations in terms of commercial and economic importance in the Asia-Pacific region and hence establishing rail links between the two countries assumes highest importance so that the people in both the countries gets benefited with increased economic activity that empowers the societies in different geographies on both the sides”, he added.

Tetalia-Byrnihat Railway Line to be ready by March 2018: says Meghalaya Governor

New Broad Gauge Railway Line from Tetelia to Byrnihat (21.50 Km) as an alternative alignment to Azara-Byrnihat new line (National Project) was sanctioned by Ministry of Railways on 5.8.2010.

SHILLONG: Meghalaya Governor Banwarilal Purohit today said the work on Tetalia-Byrnihat railway line in Ri-Bhoi district of the state is in progress and is likely to be commissioned by March next year. “The work on Tetalia-Byrnihat railway line is in progress and is likely to be commissioned by March 2018,” he said while addressing the opening day of the Budget session of the Assembly. He said the state now figures on the prime railway map of the country with the commencement of the train service between Duhnoi-Mendipathar-Gauhati in the North Garo Hills District.

The Tetelia-Byrnihat railway project faced many hurdles with regard to availability of land for early completion of the project. There is delay in handing over the designated land to the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) for the project. An official with the NFR said that work was going on in only those areas where they have got possession of the land. “We were not getting the whole stretch of land,” the NFR official, on the request of anonymity, said. According to the official, there is litigation over some government land in Assam; besides, they are yet to get clearance for a forest area of around 4 km in Assam. The 21.5-km Tetelia-Byrnihat rail line is scheduled to be completed at a cost of around Rs 400 crore.

In Meghalaya, the NFR is yet to get possession of the land belonging to a local MLA since he has not handed over the land to the NFR. The deadline for the Tetelia-Byrnihat is March 2018, but the official stated that they would be able to complete the project ahead of time if the land is handed over to the NFR at the earliest. Meanwhile, sources said that the survey work on the 108-km stretch of the proposed Shillong-Byrnihat railway project is going on smoothly with only five km left to be completed.

Reacting to a query, the official said NFR is contemplating to construct the Shillong railway station somewhere near the New Shillong Township and the Northeast Frontier Railway is contemplating to connect all the eight sister states in India’s North East by 2020 as the department has already started ‘Mission 2020’ which will be implemented strictly within the stipulated time-frame.

On the other hand, NGOs in Meghalaya are demanding for a comprehensive and effective mechanism for checking influx issue before the introduction of railway in the state. Earlier in December 2016, the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) reiterated their opposition to the proposed rail link from Assam’s Tetelia to Byrnihat and then to Shillong. On the proposed railway link, the KSU said it would continue to oppose the projects from Tetelia-Byrnihat and Byrnihat-Shillong till a strong law is implemented to check unabated influx.

During Feb 2017, Minister of State for Railways (MOSR) Rajen Gohain cited an example of influx from Bangladesh in a Nagaland village “through marriage and not rail line”, dispelling fears that the railway projects would lead to influx in Meghalaya. The state was connected by rail after Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the 19.75 km Dudhnoi-Mendipathar rail line in November 2014 which linked Assam with Garo hills.  Commencement of Rail services in the region will not only empower the communities here both economically and socially, but also connect with the rest of the fast transforming world and importantly prosper the region in a bigger way.  The Railway line will also enable large scale employment, and the economical ecosystem will largely grow, he said.

Rajen Gohain, who is also a BJP MP from Assam where influx of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants has been an emotive issue said the influx can occur even in the absence of Railways. “Land of the people here (Meghalaya) is safe due to the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and no outsider can buy land of the indigenous people in the state. Stopping such a big project (railways) for fear of influx is not right and all should understand it,” he added. He said he had discussed the issue of the proposed railway projects in Meghalaya with the state’s IT minister Ampareen Lyngdoh and she assured him of the state government’s cooperation.

Ministry of Railways sanctioned projects worth Rs 13,500 crore for North East, says Rajen Gohain, MOS (Rlys) at ConMac – a 3-day Conference and Exhibition on ‘Construction Equipment & Construction Technology’ at Guwahati

The Railways has sanctioned projects worth Rs 13,500 crore for the North East in this year’s budget, Union Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain said on Friday. “Railway Ministry has big plans for the North East. Several new projects amounting to about Rs 13,500 crore have been sanctioned in this year’s budget including new lines, bridges and an elevated rail tract project from Kamakhya to New Guwahati at a cost of Rs 3,062 crore”, Gohain said on the second day of the infrastructure development conference ConMac here.

These steps would not only help to boost the infrastructure of this region but also generate employment for the youth through several spin-off industries, he said.

A bottled drinking water plant under the Rail Neer brand at Jagiroad in Assam and a high-end North East Safari Train was being envisaged, the minister added.

North East Council (NEC) member C K Das highlighted the infrastructural gaps in the region as compared to other regions of the country and spoke about the initiative of NEC for infrastructure development in the region.

North East Frontier Railway has identified the critical projects in the region and the progress over the last few years has been satisfactory, NF Railway’s General Manager (Construction) H K Jaggi said.

RPF success rate in nabbing anti-social elements on the rise on NFR

GUWAHATI: The Railway Protection Force (RPF) of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has reported a jump in its success against anti-social elements involved in offences against passengers and their belongings.

Official sources said that detection of cases and arrests made with regard to offences like drugging, theft and crime against women went up in 2016 compared to 2015 in the NFR zone.

Last year, RPF detected 22 cases related to drugging of passengers as against only 14 such cases in 2015. A total of 33 arrests were made in relation to such cases in 2016 as against 23 in 2015, which in an increase of over 30 per cent.

Similarly, 56 cases related to theft of passengers’ belongings were detected in 2016 as against 33 in the previous year. RPF arrested 71 persons for their alleged involvement in such cases last year compared to 58 in 2015, an increase of over 18 per cent.

In addition, two cases of robbery were detected by RPF in the NFR zone last year and three arrests were made in this connection. No incident of dacoity took place in 2016.

RPF also detected nine cases of crime against women last year and nine persons were arrested for their alleged involvement in such incidents.

Officials said that the force also achieved major success in its drive against human trafficking.

During 2016, as many as 60 boys and girls were rescued and 19 traffickers were arrested, as against 44 kids rescued in 2015, thereby resulting in arrest of seven traffickers.

“In addition, 357 runaway minor boys and girls were rescued in 2016 as against 162 in 2015,” said an official.

He added that the force has also intensified its escorting duties, and on an average RPF provides escort in 124 Mail and Express trains, especially those running during night. Over 450 staff have been deployed for this purpose.

On being contacted, NFR Public Relations Officer (PRO) Nripen Bhattacharya said that besides introduction and operationalising of the RPF security helpline No. 182 in all security control rooms of the railway divisions and constitution of Quick Reaction Teams (QRT) at some important stations, steps have also been taken for raising public awareness on security-related issues.

“Wide publicity of security helpline No. 182 has been made vide different means like publicity through electronic media as well as print media, pasting of stickers, hoardings, distribution of leaflets and pamphlets, conducting street plays, street shows and digital exercise at important stations,” he said.

During 2016, as many as 163 complaints related to security and other matters were received via the helpline number.

It is noteworthy that RPF of NFR bagged the All India Security Shield 2016 on the basis of its performance during the year 2015-16.

“RPF has been retaining the ‘All India Passenger Security Shield’ for the last three successive years on the basis of performance on the parameters related to passenger security. This time it was shared with East Central Railway,” said an official.

Assam Govt to utilise RailTel’s Broadband Internet for Financial Inclusion of Tea Garden workers

Guwahati, Dec. 8: The Assam government will tie up with RailTel Corporation of India for broadband Internet connectivity to expedite the financial inclusion of tea garden workers in remote areas.

The move was initiated after stock-taking meetings with banks, BSNL and other stakeholders revealed it was not possible to meet the December 5 deadline to open bank accounts of all workers spread over 800-plus tea estates and then make the transactions cashless by opening ATMs in the gardens.

The deadline for opening accounts under the Jan Dhan Yojana has now been pushed to December 15, the date fixed by chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal to set up ATMs in all gardens.

State’s Commissioner and Secretary to Govt.of Assam, Finance Department Mr.Ravi Kota, one of the key officials coordinating the efforts to push the government’s twin agendas for financial and digital inclusion, told “We are tying up with RailTel for broadband Internet connectivity to touch remote tea gardens located close to railway stations so that we can achieve our target at the earliest.”

Kota said they have sought RailTel’s support for gardens located in Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar and Golaghat districts.

“We have so far covered over 150 gardens and there has been good progress in others. We can achieve the target of opening bank accounts by December 15 and with RailTel and BSNL’s support we can resolve the Internet connectivity bit,” he said.

RailTel Corporation is a Miniratna PSU having a Pan-India optic fibre network along railway tracks, providing nationwide broadband telecom and multimedia network.

Assam tea tribes welfare minister Pallab Lochan Das said the state government was doing everything possible to expedite the process but was treading carefully so as not to create problems for either the “simple” garden workers or the service providers.

“We are on track and trying to expedite things. Over 75 per cent of the tea garden community has been covered by the banks. We are also assessing the connectivity part as most gardens are in remote areas. We are in talks with RailTel and other stakeholders but we also need to keep in mind that there are constraints which need to be tackled carefully,” Das said.

The minister said the government was trying to do something unprecedented. “Therefore, we are being extra careful. The move should not only be seen from the financial perspective. We feel once the tea community is digitally connected they will be empowered in more ways than one,” the minister said.

Hardships of people in the NE will be reduced once Jiribam-Imphal Rail line is commissioned: MOSR Rajen Gohain

Once the Railway line is commissioned, it will make the region the most promising of economic activity, increase the scope of employment, boost agriculture produce and enhance transportation with ease and comfort, said Rajen Gohain, Minister of State for Railways.

IMPHAL: Once the railway connection from Jiribam to Imphal is commissioned, there will not be much effect of economic blockades or bandhs and the State will become one of the business hubs of South East Asian countries.

This was stated by Union Minister of State (Railways) Rajen Gohain during a press conference held at the Nityaipat Chuthek office of BJP Manipur Pradesh this evening.

Rajen Gohain stated that he is visiting Manipur to present a detailed report of the railway project from Jiribam to Imphal and also regarding the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly election.

Once the Railway line is commissioned, it will make the region the most promising of economic activity, increase the scope of employment, boost agriculture produce and enhance transportation with ease and comfort, said Gohain.

It has been witnessed that BJP is in good position to win the election and form the next State Government.

He said that the Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal Railway project was taken up in 2008 and soon after it was declared a National project in view of its immense significance.

Around 12.5 Kms of the railway line has been completed and inspected by experts.

There are 45 tunnels and more than 100 major and minor bridges along the railway line from Jiribam to Imphal.

Till January this year, Rs 595 crore has been invested for the railway project.

One of the tallest bridges and the longest railway tunnel would be witnessed after completion of the Jiribam-Tupul section of the railway project and it is expected to be commissioned before December 2018 .

This would be followed by Tupul-Imphal section on December 2019, Rajen Gohain informed.

Once the railway line is commissioned, hardship faced by people in the State due to bandhs and blockades along National Highways would be eased considerably.

However, the railway project could not achieve much progress during the last three months or so due to the economic blockade.

Survey for Imphal-Moreh railway line has been completed and the construction work will be started within a short period.

He claimed that whatever developmental changes seen in the State are is due to the Centre’s NDA Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Look East Policy has now been changed to Act East Policy by giving special preference and importance to the Northeastern States.

He also appealed to the people of Manipur to vote for BJP so as to for bring speedy development in the State as already seen in his home State.

Naba Sarania visits Railway Workshop in New Bongaigaon

NEW BONGAIGAON: Naba Kumar (Hira) Saraniya, Member of Parliament from Kokrajhar constituency, visited Carriage and wagon workshop, New Bongaigaon on Friday to take stock of its units and their current functional status besides examining its bottlenecks.

Following a brief meeting with Chief Workshop Manager (CWM), DS Kunwar and other officials, Sarania spent nearly half-an-hour looking around each unit (shop) of the railway plant and reviewed their current capacity and future prospects.

During his visit, leaders of Purbanchal Rail Karmi Parishad (PRKP), NF Railway Employees’ union and NF Railway Mazdoor Union extended their full support and made him aware of the present crises the workshop is facing.

CWM Kunwar also apprised the parliamentarian about the latest developments in the workshop and his reformatory actions implemented in it for better output.

While talking to the media, MP Sarania said lack of employment opportunity is the main factor behind the rising number of gun-clutching youths and said that he had also raised arms once for the interest of the people and spent vital years of his life then.

Before leaving the workshop, Sarania assured its employees and the officials of taking up the issues of the plant in front of the appropriate authorities. He would demand the Union government to increase the productivity of the workshop to minimise the outsourcing and for generating employment opportunities here for the local youths, Sarania said.

As per the Chief Workshop Manager, out of over 2500 employees, 300 are women and they have been working in 21 units of the workshop. Since a number of posts have been lying vacant here since years, it has affected the work force in the plant and the office, an official said.

NFR, IRCTC jointly launch Astha Circuit Tourist Train for NE

GUWAHATI: The North East Frontier Railway and Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) have jointly launched the ‘Astha Circuit Tourist Train’ for the people of North East.

“This train was launched to fulfil the budget promise. The special train will start from Kamakhya for Puri and Bhubaneswar with stoppage at Kolkata and back to Kamakhya. For the first time, this type of special dedicated tourist train is being originated from the NF Railway,” Pranav Jyoti Sharma, Chief Public Relations Officer of NFR said in a press statement.

The proposed train would take travellers to a mix of popular pilgrimage destinations across the eastern part of the country at cheapest available rates and would be managed by IRCTC.

“This is a very unique concept where a dedicated tourist train will be originating from Kamakhya for the very first time in the history of NF Railway,” Sharma said.

The ‘Astha Circuit Tourist Train’ would take tourists to a mix of various popular religious destinations, covering Gangasagar, Sri Swamy Narayan Temple, Kalighat, Birla Temple, Sri Jagannath Temple, Konark Temple and Lingaraj Temple.

The duration of the tour from Kamakhya and back would be six nights and seven days, at a cost of Rs 850 per person per day, plus taxes.

Per person cost for the entire trip would be Rs 6,161 (all inclusive) including breakfast, lunch, dinner, sleeper class accommodation and visit to various temples through local transport.

The train would start from Kamakhya on February 17 and would end at Kamakhya on February 23, the statement said.

The train would have various boarding stations including Kamakhya, Alipurduar, New CoochBehar, New Jalpaiguri, Malda, New Farakka, Pakur, Rampurhat and Bolpur.

De-boarding stations would be Rampurhat, Pakur, New Farakka, Malda Town, New Jalpaiguri, New CoochBehar and Alipurduar.

Tourists who intend to avail the services may book tickets online from www.irctctourism.com, through registered e-ticket agents or from any office of the IRCTC.

Such tourist trains were also being planned from other parts of the country to Assam and nearby areas, the statement said.

Recovery Rate of Contraband Goods by RPF goes up on Northeast Frontier Railway

File Pic: Rattan Chand, Chief Security Commissioner RPF/NFR addressing the press conference on achievements of RPF on NFR during 2016 and “Sankalp” for the year 2017 by CSC/NFR at NFR HQ Conference Hall, Maligaon in Guwahati on 07-01-2017

GUWAHATI: The Railway Protection Force (RPF) under Maligaon-headquartered Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has managed to increase its success rate with regard to recovery of contrabands with a total of 134 such cases detected during 2016.

Official sources said that various contraband goods like ganja, phensedyl, liquor and cigarettes were recovered on 134 occasions during last year as against only 70 such cases in 2015, registering a year-on-year growth of over 91 per cent success rate in operations to seize such items.

The value of the contraband items recovered in 2016 was Rs 3.63 crore compared to Rs 2.62 crore in 2015. This was a growth of over 36 per cent.

In addition, 68 persons were arrested for their alleged involvement in shipping of contraband items, which is a big jump from 24 arrests made by RPF in the NFR zone during 2015.

“There has been a substantial increase in detection, recovery and arrests,” said an official.

RPF also detected 41 cases of illegal carrying of forest products at various places under the NFR zone during 2016.

The recovered items were worth almost Rs 25 lakh. Altogether, 5 arrests were made in connection with illegal transportation of forest products by the RPF.

“The detection and recovery made in this regard increased by 32.25 per cent and over 398 per cent respectively in 2016 as compared to 2015,” the official said.

During the year, RPF of NFR also recovered explosives, including four power gel 801 explosives, four coils of red, blue, yellow and green-coloured wires measuring about 12 feet each, 35 packets of detonators, 74 packets of gelatine sticks and 31 coils of fuse wire.

Besides, it also recovered 20 live rounds of ammunition of INSAS rifle, ten rounds of 9 mm pistol bullets, three rounds of AK-47 ammunition, five rounds of 7.62 mm pistol bullets and one pistol.

A total of nine persons were arrested for carrying the recovered explosives, arms and ammunitions.

NFR Public Relations Officer (PRO) Nripen Bhattacharya said that for the interest of rail users, RPF security helpline No.182 has been introduced and made active in all security control rooms of the divisions for providing quick assistance to passengers in need.

“Presently, 13 lines of help line No. 182 are operational to receive grievances of passengers, including three each in Katihar, Lumding and Alipurduar divisions, and two each in Rangiya and Tinsukia divisions. Quick Reaction Teams (QRT) has been constituted at some important railway stations for attending to the callers in need and to take necessary steps,” he said.

Rail connectivity to Shillong would be a Game Changer; would help boost Tourism: Meghalaya CM Mukul Sangma

SHILLONG: Railways would be a game changer for the land-locked north eastern state and would help boost tourism, Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma today said.

“The railway connectivity to Shillong can be a game changer in our pursuit to promote the state as the most favoured tourist destination,” Sangma said here.

He said the railway lines need not to be only used as a passenger train but the services should be provided to the tourists as well.

“Therefore, we would like to take the advantage of railway connectivity to promote high-end tourism in the state,” Sangma said.

Sangma’s statement assumes significance in the view of tribal bodies opposing the introduction of railways for the fear of influx.

Referring to the railway line in Garo hills, the chief minister said that he was happy to see farmers from North Garo hills assess markets like Guwahati.

“I have been informed that farmers and entrepreneurs have now started utilising the railway line between Mendipathar to Guwahati to sell their farm products,” he said adding that there were proposals to connect other parts of the country.

On the proposed railway projects at Byrnihat and Shillong, he said the whole issue of land acquisition has been worked out and entire alignment have been finalised.

“Regarding Shillong, the whole alignment has been worked out and the survey is on,” he said adding the land acquisition has some glitches but “we will overcome.” Allaying fears of influx in the state, the chief minister said that comprehensive measures adopted by the state would be capable of dealing with such a situation.

“Besides these measures, we already have many other existing laws which empower and equip our people with the right kind of wherewithal to deal with illegal immigration and influx,” he said.

Stating that government has showed its commitment to deal with the issue of influx and illegal immigration, he said, “I have approved a file today which includes some proposal for spending on entry/exit points.”

Railways aims for new heights with train to Tawang at 10,000 Feet

GUWAHATI: Aiming to take railway services in the region to new heights, the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has planned to bring trains to Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang.

Tawang is located at a height of 10,000 feet on the border with China. Survey work for the project will start next year.

NFR General Manager (Construction), H K Jaggi, said three strategic lines connecting Bhalukpung to Tawang, Murkongselek (Assam) to Pasighat in Arunachal and Silapathar (Assam) to Bane in Arunachal were in the pipeline.

The estimated cost of the project is Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 70,000 crore. Jaggi said the Bhalukpung-Tawang line would be the most challenging as it would pass through terrain with altitudes ranging from 500 feet to 9,000 feet.

“It may not follow the same route as the existing road. For example, the highest point on the way to Tawang is Sela (13,700 feet). The survey will find out ways of building tracks by avoiding high-altitude zones,” he said.

Naharlagun, 10km from Itanagar, was the first in Arunachal to get rail connectivity in 2014. Junior rail minister Rajen Gohain said the Budget+ had sanctioned a survey to check feasibility of connectivity for river island Majuli. He said a 100km line would connect Majuli’s Kamalabari and Garmur with Dhakukhana via Jorhat to Gogamukh.

Centre allocates Rs.10000 Crore in Rail projects in North-East India

NEW DELHI: President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said the government is taking special initiatives to develop the North East region, including developing railway projects worth Rs 10,000 crore.

“My government is taking all special initiatives to develop the North East region. Special attention is being given to provide financial assistance with the ratio of 90:10 for the centrally Sponsored Schemes. For the railways related development, the government has already poured in Rs 10,000 crore,” said President Shri Pranab Mukherjee addressing the joint session of Parliament.

For the first time in India the Union Budget will be presented on February 1.

Talking about other initiatives for the North East region, Mukherjee said: “Arunachal Pradesh has been brought in the Railway map.”

On the setting up of various new organisations in North East, Mukherjee said: “Organisations like Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited, Numaligarh Refinery and others are new projects which will create tremendous job opportunities in the region.”

Prabhu signs $5-lakh pact with UNESCO for Darjeeling railways

UNESCO to draw up plan to preserve Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Prabhu also thanked the people of the Darjeeling Hills for being an integral part of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Eco-system and their efforts in preserving and conserving it.

Guwahati: The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is all set to receive a major conservation boost with the Indian Railways on Friday signing a fund-in-trust agreement worth $5,33,332 to enable UNESCO develop a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) and a framework for an effective management system for it. Signing the agreement in Darjeeling, union railway minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu described it as a historic moment and said Indian Railway was committed do everything possible to perverse the priceless heritage of the DHR that was declared a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1999.

Indian Railways signed a Fund in Trust (FIT) agreement with the UNESCO on Friday for development of a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) for the heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) at Darjeeling in presence of the Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and a senior regional representative of the UNESCO in charge of India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

The FIT is aimed at preparing a conservation guideline for the century-old Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) source said here. As per the FIT the UNESCO has been tasked to draw up a CCMP for the DHR.
“Conservation of heritage starts at the hearts and minds of people and Indian Railway would do everything possible to conserve railway heritage,” Prabhu said after singing the FIT with UNESCO and lauded the people of Darjeeling for their contribution towards preserving DHR eco-system.

The Railway already transferred Rs 3.21 crore to the UNESCO to formulate the conservation plan and the FIT signed on Friday amounted to formal launching of the CCMP. The UNESCO with its expertise is expected to draw up a comprehensive plan for preservation of the DHR within two years.

The UNESCO had accorded the heritage tag to the DHR in 1999.

In the CCMP, apart from identifying the core, buffer and heritage areas, UNESCO would create an inventory of DHR assets, come up with guidelines on how to maintain the old heritage structure and document craftsmen associated with the DHR.

The DHR had started operation way back in 1881. It now has 13 steam locomotives aged over a century and six diesel engines. Last year, a UNESCO team had visited the DHR to conduct a preliminary survey. The total annual expenditure incurred by the Railway to run the DHR is Rs 15 crore and sources said that for the first time since Independence, the DHR was looking at breaking even, a NFR source informed.

While the CCMP for Darjeeling Himalayan Railway had actually commenced in April, 2016, once successful, it would be replicated in Nilgiri Mountain Railway and Kalka Shimla Railway too. While Nilgiri Mountain Railway was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Kalka Shimla Railway was given the same status in 2008. The three together are called Unesco’s ‘Mountain Railways of India World Heritage Site.’ “This Fund-In-Trust agreement is the first step towards realising the CCMP, and aims at assisting the Ministry of Railways in enhancing the conservation and management of the Mountain Railways of India,” Northeast Frontier Railway CPRO PJ Sharma informed. An effective management system would in turn serve as the master document for formulating projects towards future interventions in respect to heritage matters of DHR and the other two mountain railways, he added.

With several stake-holders operating in the area, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has been severely affected by rampant construction along the line and in coming up of urban settlements, lack of inventory of historic buildings that have been already demolished, renovated, restored or reconstructed has also added to its problems. “Lack of a management plan for the World Heritage property and an undefined buffer zone along the length of it has also severely threatened the future of the World Heritage property. There is lack of meaningful collaboration and clear governance arrangements to deal with regional issues affecting the DHR with special regard to the World Heritage property and buffer zone management,” CPRO Sharma said. The CCMP, once completed and implemented, is expected to remove the existing anomalies and ensure proper conservation of all the three heritage railways, he added.

 

Railways to invest Rs.1000 Crore on new tracks beyond Agartala

Agartala: The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has invested around Rs 1,000 crore to extend the railway line beyond Tripura capital Agartala and up tothe state’s southern temple city Udaipur, a top official said here on Thursday.

The NFR would start two pairs of passenger train services on the newly constructed Agartala-Udaipur route from January 20, fulfilling the long-pending demands of the people of southern Tripura.

According to NFR’s Chief Public Relations Officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma, the passenger trains would run six days a week, except on Sundays.

“The NFR has invested over Rs 1,000 crore to extend the 44.76-km railway lines up to Udaipur (district headquarters of Gomati district). We have completed laying of railway tracks up to Udaipur before schedule of March 2017,” NFR Chief Engineer Harpal Singh told RailNews over phone from Guwahati.

He said: “The railway line would be extended up to south Tripura district headquarters Belonia by this year end or early next year. By March 2019, southern Tripura’s last border town Sabroom would be connected by railway network.”

Singh said that two major tunnels would be constructed for the Belonia and Sabroom lines.

The Indian government has been extending railway line up to Tripura’s border town Sabroom to get access to Bangladesh’s international Chittagong sea port, which is just 75 km from Sabroom.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said: “After the Indian Railways extends its rail line up to Sabroom, it would be very easy to connect with the Chittagong international sea port in southeast Bangladesh.”

“After extending the railway line to Sabroom, Tripura and the entire northeast India would be linked with southeast Asia very easily,” Sarkar told IANS.

The extension of the erstwhile metre-gauge track up to Agartala brought Tripura capital city on India’s rail map in October 2008. Subsequently the metre-gauge track was converted into broad-gauge track.

The long-awaited passenger train services between Agartala, New Delhi and Kolkata began on July 31 and October 8 last year respectively.

NFR Chief Engineer Singh said that the single track 227-km metre-gauge link — Badarpur (south Assam) to Agartala — was converted into broad-gauge track earlier last year at a cost of Rs 2,016 crore.

The NFR is now laying a broad-gauge track for the 112-km Agartala-Sabroom line — to be completed by March 2019 — at a cost of Rs 3,351 crore.

Sabroom, 135-km (by traditional road) south of Agartala, is southern Tripura’s border town adjoining Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, the NFR has already undertaken work to lay a 15-km rail track to connect Agartala with Bangladesh’s railway station Akhaura, an important rail junction there.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and Bangladeshi Rail Minister Majibul Haque jointly laid the foundation stone here on July 31 last year for Agartala (India) – Akhaura (Bangladesh) railway project.

Indo-Bangla Rail: Delay in Land Acquisition may push target timelines further

Agartala: The ambitious Indo-Bangla railway project connecting Agartala with Bangladesh’s Gangasagar might get delayed due to an impasse in land acquisition process.

As per the plan, land measuring 66 acres was supposed to be handed over to IRCON by January this year for construction of the 15-km railway track.

The West district administration had issued a notification for acquisition of land for the railway project. Even if the administration speeds up the process, it will take at least six months to acquire the land for the project after fulfilling all official formalities.

Work for the Indo-Bangla railway project was supposed to begin in the first part of 2016 but now the work may start only by middle of this year, according to sources in the IRCON. In that case, the Rs 500 crore project can get completed by 2020.

As per the DPR, there will be four railway stations in the 15 km long Indo-Bangla railway link. One part of the project is the elevated corridor from Agartala railway station to Nishchintapur, a border area of Tripura. The move to construct elevated corridor was proposed to save land which will reduce the project cost substantially.

The DoNER Ministry has already sanctioned Rs 97 crore for land acquisition but due to lackadaisical attitude of the district administration the process is yet to get momentum. When contacted, a senior official of the district administration on Monday said, “We can’t explain the reasons behind the delay as District Magistrate Dr Milind Ramteke is on leave. However, the process for land acquisition is a priority for the government”, he added.

Meanwhile, passenger train service up to Udaipur is expected to kick start shortly as CRS inspection has been done successfully. Now, the NFR is focusing on completion of railway extension line up to Sabroom, State’s southernmost border subdivision.

Assam mulls Thermal Sensors along rail tracks to reduce Elephant deaths

Railway lines- Death traps for elephants and tigers. N.F.Railway announces measures to prevent jumbo deaths in Assam in association with State’s Forest Department

Guwahati: Expressing concern over the death of elephants in the state due to conflict with humans as well as train collisions, Assam Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma on Thursday said that the government is contemplating to use thermal sensors along the railway tracks to detect the movement of elephants particularly during night.

Addressing a press conference in her office, she said that the Forest Department is also mulling to involve local people as well as to strengthen the coordination with railway authorities to stop elephant fatalities.

“It is a fact that the number of elephants are increasing in Assam and their habitations are reducing.

According to the last elephant census in 2011, Assam has 5,620 elephants. Besides the state also see large number of elephant migration from Meghalaya and Bhutan,” she said adding that all these factors have reduced the elephant habitats in the state, forcing the animals to often come out from forests to be either engage in conflict with humans or to get killed by speeding trains on tracks.

Recently, In three separate incidents, four elephants and a tiger were killed on railway tracks this week – and in Assam itself, three elephants – two of whom were pregnant – were mowed down by a train at Jugijan Railway Station in Lumding Division of Northeast Frontier Railway in central Assam’s Nagaon district. Two days later, another elephant was found dead near railway tracks in Goalpara district. In an another incident, a four year old tiger was killed after being hit by a train at Satna district in Madhya Pradesh on 5 December. More than 10 elephants have died in the state since November, the primary cause of which has been man-elephant conflict.

The Minister said that the state had lost a total of seven elephants till date since May this year after being hit by speeding trains. Apart from this, two elephants were killed by poisoning and one by poachers.

“We have taken the matter seriously. We cannot let this happen again and again. Our department is mulling over a host of measures to reduce incidents of elephants death as well as human elephant conflicts,” she said adding that decisions have been taken to press NGOs into service to reduce man-elephant conflicts.

“We are also going to sit with the Railway Department so that we are in a position to strictly implement the minimum speed of trains while crossing elephant corridors,” she said adding that anti-depredation squads have been formed in association with local youth and training is being imparted to them to deal with man-animal conflict as well as to prevent untoward incidents regarding the safety of wild animals.

The Minister admitted here is scarcity of well-trained veterinarians in Assam to attend to the wild animals. “We have decided to ask the veterinary university to open up a specialised wing so that their services can be hired for treating animals in wild during emergencies,” said Brahma.

“In Assam, we are facing a new challenge in preventing jumbo deaths as the elephant herds are crossing railway tracks in different locations which are not earmarked as vulnerable in the state forest department’s advisory list. Some of the recent train accidents involving jumbos occurred in Assam at those locations which are not mentioned as vulnerable by the state forest department. A concerted effort is required to tackle the jumbo death issue, which is becoming serious with growing human-elephant conflict,” said a senior railways official.

The plight of India’s ‘National Heritage Animal’ on railway tracks needs urgent attention from the Ministry of Railways, Government of India. More than 200 elephants have been killed due to train hits in the last 30 years. Ironically, Indian’s Railway’s mascot Bholu, is also an elephant.

Incidents involving wildlife deaths occurring along the railway tracks are an increasing concern. Such incidents have also increased after conversion of the tracks from meter gauge to broad gauge. Since this shift, there are far more passenger and freight trains covering more than 1500km of railway tracks which pass through some of the country’s most sensitive wildlife habitats, including Protected Areas and wildlife corridors.

While the up-gradation of railway infrastructure is needed, measures need to be taken to reduce its adverse impacts on forests and wildlife. Concrete steps need to be enforced to reduce  incidents of train-hits. Railways, Forest Department and District Administration need to take up joint efforts including patrolling to monitor elephant movement near railway tracks, regular coordination meetings and the need to put in a system where near-real time information can be fed into the train movement system to warn locomotive drivers of probable elephant crossings. Speed limitations need to be put in places where railway tracks move through wildlife habitats. Most importantly, locomotive drivers need to strictly adhere to speed limitations when passing through stretches where elephants cross railway tracks. Implementation of focussed long-term awareness programme for railway staff in wildlife areas are crucial in addressing this issue.

Key stakeholders involving Indian Railways, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and state Forest Departments and civil society in elephant range states need to implement tangible actions to reduce elephant mortality due to train-hits in the country.

For more information:

Rituparna Sengupta; Senior Manager, Campaigns, Brand and Media
rsengupta@wwfindia.net; 011-41504797
Indira Akoijam; Manager, Communications, Species and Landscapes Programme
iakoijam@wwfindia.net; 011-41504783

Centre speeds up Teteliya-Byrnihat-Shillong Rail line project

train-to-meghalayaTo bring the North Eastern states on the railway network, the Government has taken up two new line projects on Northeast Frontier Railway.

The two projects were Teteliya (Assam) Byrnihat (Meghalaya) and Byrnihat-Shillong (Meghalaya).

The 22-km Teteliya-Byrnihat project had been taken up at the latest anticipated cost of Rs 496-crore and the 108-km Byrnihat-Shillong line would come up at a cost of Rs 5,308-crore, officials said.

For the Teteliya-Byrnihat, an expenditure of Rs 235-crore had been incurred up to March, 2016. Earthwork, bridges and tunnels works have already been taken up. An allocation of Rs 150-crore had been made in 2015-16 and Rs 160-crore in 2016-17 to expedite the completion of the project.

Similarly, for the Byrnihat-Shillong railway line, an expenditure of Rs 21-crore had already been incurred up to March, this year and an outlay of Rs 300-crore had been provided for 2016-17.

The Project was held up due to protest of Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), officials said. The final location survey was stopped by the Khasi Students’ Union, in November, 2010 after survey of 19 kms.

The survey was again taken up in December, 2013, since then it had been stopped by the KSU on many occasions of varying duration.

The final location survey had since been completed for 104-km. Regular meetings with the State Government were being convened to sort out various issues.

Due to various uncertainties with reference to land acquisition, law and order and other issue, it was not feasible to fix time lines for completion of this project, the officials said.

In Teteliya-Byrnihat and Byrnihat-Shillong new line projects, location of Byrnihat and Shillong were identified for development of goods handling facilities.

Railways lead North-east foundation: Suresh Prabhu

New Delhi: Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today thanked the Bangladesh government for its help in developing Broad Gauge railway tracks up to the international boundary within India.

Flagging off passenger train services in newly-converted Broad Gauge tracks up to Bangladesh along Assam border through remote control from here, Mr Prabhu said, “I have to convey my sincere gratitude to the Bangladesh government for its contribution in helping us lay broad gauge tracks in the border areas.”

He said the newly-converted tracks will boost Assam’s linkage with the rest of the country, while also opening it up as a link between South East Asian nations.

This 10km stretch (between Karimganj and Maishashan) is an important link for Trans-Asian Railway network through Bangladesh. It would run up to Maishashan, the border town in Assam for train link to Bangladesh. This gauge conversion work was sanctioned at a cost of Rs 55 crore, with two stations in Longai and Maishashan.

Suresh Prabhu to lay foundation stone of station building at Tupul

Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu will lay the foundation stones of station building at Tupul, safety tunnel of Tunnel No 12 on November 12.The Minister will also formally start the construction work at Portal No 2 on the same day.

The foundation stone laying ceremony will be graced by Governor Najma A Heptulla, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi and Minister of Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar as presidium members.

Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain, Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam, Minister of Transport and Education Dr Kh Ratan Kumar Singh, IFCD and Printing & Stationery Minister Ngamthang Haokip, Rajya Sabha MPs Haji Abdul Salam and MC Mary Kom, Lok Sabha MPs Thangso Baite and Thokchom Meinya, MLAs RK Imo Singh, Khwairakpam Devendro Singh, Wangkheimayum Brajabidhu Singh and Janghemlung Panmei will also attend the foundation stone laying ceremony.

Foundation for Doubling of Hojai-Lumding Rail section laid

Sarbananda Sonowal lays foundation of doubling of Hojai-Lumding BG section
Sarbananda Sonowal lays foundation of doubling of Hojai-Lumding BG section

Guwahati: Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain today jointly laid the foundation stone of the project for doubling of railway line in the Hojai-Lumding section at a public function held at Hojai.

Legislators Shiladitya Dev (Hojai), Shibu Misra (Lumding), Rupak Sarma (Nagaon), Pijush Hazarika (Jagiroad), Dimbeswar Das (Raha), Ashok Sharma (Nalbari) and Kamal Sing Narzary (Bijni), senior civil administration officials, senior NF Railway officials led by General Manager of NF Railway Construction Organisation HK Jaggi, among others were present during the event.

Addressing the gathering, Sonowal lauded the effort of the Minister of State for Railways for developing railway infrastructure in the region and thanked him for the initiatives.

The Chief Minister said Assam had been lacking in development and many of the demands of the State remained unfulfilled. He thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu for paying special attention to the region and hoped that the Railways will act as the growth engine for the region.

While calling upon the people of the State to extend all cooperation to the Railways for realisation of the rail projects in the region, Sonowal assured that the State Government will extend all possible help to the Railways.

He also stressed on maintaining cleanliness in railway stations and all residential areas and called upon the citizens to actively participate in the Swachh Bharat Mission.

Speaking on the occasion, Gohain said that lack of double lines has been a critical bottleneck in Assam for punctual movement of trains and the project of doubling of railway line from Hojai to Lumding (44.92 km) will create additional carrying capacity for the Railways and improve punctuality of trains.

He said that similar sanctioned works of doubling in other sections would be started simultaneously so that the time consumed to complete these projects can be minimised.

Gohain announced that doubling of railway tracks from Bongaigaon to Guwahati via Goalpara and Digaru to Hojai would start in October and it would be his endeavour to invite Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu for the foundation stone laying ceremony of those projects. He said that these projects are expected to be completed within three years.

Gohain said that the electrification of railway tracks from New Jalpaiguri to Guwahati at a cost of about Rs 650 crore, which was sanctioned in 2008, would also start very soon. He also said that surveys are being undertaken for extending double line to upper Assam.

The minister said that Hojai railway station would be rebuilt as a modern station.

Railways transport fuel-laden trucks to Tripura under RoRo Service

For the first time in the history of North-East India, Indian Railways has started a RoRo (Roll On Roll Off) service to deal with the ongoing Tripura fuel crisis.

Tripura to get relief from fuel crisis through NFR's RoRo service
Tripura to get relief from fuel crisis through NFR’s RoRo service being run by Indian Railways to mitigate the problem

Guwahati: For the first time in the history of North-East India, Indian Railways has started a RoRo (Roll On Roll Off) service to deal with the ongoing Tripura fuel crisis.

The first flat-wagon goods train with 21 loaded tanker trucks left from Bhanga in Assam and would be reaching Churaibari in Tripura, which is 67 kilometres away.

With rains damaging the national highway, the road connectivity to Tripura has been severely affected, resulting in petrol prices sky-rocketing to over Rs 300 per litre in the state.

During his visit to Agartala, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had promised to help the state out of the fuel crisis situation.

With this train being rolled out today, Indian Railways is ready to fill whatever demand-supply gap that would help alleviate the crisis. “We are trying to provide the best possible help to Tripura in this regard and will continue to do so in future as well,” Suresh Prabhu told FE Online on this development.

Giving details of the help that Indian Railways is providing, PranavJyoti Sharma, Chief Public Relations Officer at North-East Frontier Railway told, “Earlier railway connectivity to North-East was a big problem, but now with Tripura being connected, Indian Railways has been able to provide timely aid to solve the crisis.

NFR Ro-Ro service to TripuraThe whole train trip will take 6 hours from Bhanga to Churaibari, because the speed will not be above 30 kmph.This is an over dimensional consignment (ODC), and the terrain is hilly, which is why there are restrictions on the speed.” “IOC has given 2 lakh 36 thousand litres of HSD (High-Speed Diesel), 7*12 metric tonnes of LPG, 12,000 litres of motor spirit (petrol) and 48,000 litres of SKO (Superior Kerosene Oil),” he elaborated.

The RoRo service consisting 30 DBKM (flat bedded) wagons, with each having a capacity to carry two loaded trucks, were placed at Bhanga. Tanker trucks were loaded on by means of an end-loading ramp.

“The trucks were securely fixed on the wagon floor to ensure safety during movement. The RoRo scheme will help the loaded trucks to piggyback on goods train bypassing the damaged national highway near Churaibari,” Sharma further said.

RoRo service was first introduced in Konkan Railway in 1999, and with its introduction in NorthEast Frontier Railway, the prospect of commercial goods’ movement opens up extensively. Given that road conditions in remote areas of North-East often gets affected during inclement weather, RoRo may increasingly prove to be a lifeline for the region.

Vital North-east rail link back on track after two months

Lumding-Silchar section opened for goods train

A goods train passing through the diverted alignment near Migrendisa on Thursday.
A goods train passing through the diverted alignment near Migrendisa on Thursday.

Silchar/Agartala: The broad gauge line of Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) – the lifeline of several north-eastern states – was restored on Thursday, almost two months after it was damaged by heavy rains.

In spite of frequent rainfall in the area, the NF Railway started operation of goods trains on Lumding-Silchar route on Thursday, said the Chief Engineer of NF Railway, RP Jingar.

The train services on the Lumding-Silchar route was disrupted for several days due to heavy landslide damaging the foundation of tracks near Migrendisa causing immense difficulties to the people of Barak Valley and Dima Hasao.

The restoration of the rail traffic will be a great relief for southern Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and parts of Manipur which are linked to the railway network of India through the NFR line.

Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) Pranav Jyoti Sharma said a new 300-metre track was laid to divert the route slightly at the problematic spot in Migrendisa in Dima Hasao district of southern Assam.

“After running goods train on the route on an experimental basis for a few days, we will decide on resuming normal passenger train service,” he told IANS over phone from NFR headquarters in Maligaon on the outskirts of Guwahati city.

It is learnt that after the incessant rain on May 16, the train tracks were damaged at KM 92/2. After repair works on May 17, 22, 30 and June 13, the route was finally opened to goods train. However, due to continuous uplift and lateral shift of the tracks is making it difficult to maintain the tracks’ parameter and route was closed on June 12.

The work for diverted alignment was started on June 17 and completed on July 6.

Huge landslides triggered by downpour damaged the tracks on April 27. Good train traffic was restored on May 6, only to be disrupted again from May 13 onwards. That cut off southern Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and parts of Manipur from the railway network.

The NFR converted the 110 years old metre gauge line to broad gauge last year in south Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram. However, poor soil conditions are hampering running of trains on certain sections.

The Guwahati-Silchar rail route is the lifeline for southern Assam comprising Cachar, Karimganj, Hailakandi, Dima Hasao districts, and the mountainous states of Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram.

The region is dependent on the rail line for supply of food grain, essential commodities, fertilisers, petroleum products, construction materials and other goods.

Austrian, German Geotech Engineers help shore up rail links in Northeast Frontier

landslide rail track nfrAgartala: The broad gauge lifeline of northeastern states is in danger and it’s because of the loose soil beneath the railway track. So engineers from Austria and Germany are now working hard to find a solution even as the Northeast Frontier Railway has decided to divert parts of the track in Dima Hasao district of southern Assam.

The track that traverses southern Assam, Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura was converted from metre gauge to broad gauge last year. However, within weeks train services had to be suspended — first because of rain and landslides, and then due to loose soil beneath the railway track.

“The railway track in Migrendisa in southern Assam was badly damaged due to incessant rain and landslides. After the debris was cleared train services resumed, but because of the loose soil the track got curved,” Northeast Frontier Railways’ Chief Public Relations Officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma told.

“Before laying the new railway track, profiling of the area, soil testing and other technical matters were checked by various agencies, including the Research Development and Standard Organisation under the Railway Ministry,” Sharma reasoned.

So what is the way forward?

“Northeast Frontier Railways has decided to divert about 200 metres of the track near Migrendisa. Work is expected to get completed, subject to favourable weather condition,” Sharma said.

NFR Chief Administrative Officer Ajit Pandit said: “We have roped in several engineers from Austria, Germany as well as India to use their expertise at the affected spots. Our workers and engineers are working round-the-clock to restore rail service.”

However, voices of discontent are rising in the area.

All-Barak Youth Students Association (ABYSA) has demanded a CBI probe alleging irregularities in the laying of the railway track.

“After spending Rs 5,000 crore and waiting for two decades, train service on the broad gauge was inaugurated in November. But within weeks a major fault developed,” ABYSA Chief Convener Baharul Islam Barbhuiya said, adding that the soil testing report should be made public. He also alleged that poor construction materials were used while laying the railway track.

The outfit has written to the railway ministry’s vigilance adviser Sunil Mathur, explaining the alleged irregularities in laying of the railway track.

Recently a high-level NFR team led by General Manager H.K. Jaggi visited the site where tracks have developed fault to assess the restoration work and diversion of the route.

The lone railway line from Guwahati passes through Lumding in Nagaon district in central Assam and southern Assam, connecting Agartala and parts of Manipur and Mizoram with the rest of India.

The Guwahati-Silchar railway route is the lifeline for southern Assam comprising Cachar, Karimganj, Hailakandi, Dima Hasao districts, and the mountainous states of Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram. The region is dependent on this railway route for supply of food grain, fertiliser, petroleum products, construction materials and other commodities.

Gauge conversion for Lumding-Silchar and Badarpur-Agartala route was sanctioned in 1996.

It was declared a national project in 2004, thereby ensuring uninterrupted funding from the central government. However, the project was hit by insurgency between 2006 and 2009, and work resumed after that.

The Silchar-Jiribam (52 km) in Manipur and Silchar-Bhairabi (120 km) in Mizoram gauge conversion projects are part of the Lumding-Silchar line.

Barak NGO demands substitute rail link

Silchar-Lumding BG Rupayan Sangram Committee members stage a protest at Badarpur on Wednesday
Silchar-Lumding BG Rupayan Sangram Committee members stage a protest at Badarpur on Wednesday

Silchar: The Silchar-Lumding Broad Gauge Rupayan Sangram Committee on Saturday staged a dharna at Silchar railway station to demand construction of a substitute rail link between Chandranathpur station and Lanka in the state.

Hundreds of members of the committee joined the agitation.

The demand for an alternative rail route was raised keeping in view the poor condition of the Lumding-Silchar section of the Northeast Frontier Railway. The 210-km-long stretch, which runs through the hills of Dima Hasao district, is prone to frequent landslides during the monsoon. As a result, train services remain suspended for days at a stretch.

The committee sought a substitute rail link through the plains of Cachar and Nagaon districts to ensure uninterrupted connectivity between Guwahati and Barak Valley, Mizoram, Tripura and Manipur.

“The proposal for an alternate route was made earlier. Now it’s time to act on the proposal,” said Ajoy Roy, a convener of the committee.

In a memorandum to PM Narendra Modi, the committee also demanded an investigation into the geo-technical failures of the Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion project.

The first passenger train on the converted broad gauge route ran in November last year. As rains hit the region, the route fell prey to landslides.

People from all walks of life today demanded a high-level probe into the Silchar-Lumding broad-gauge project in view of the existing uncertainty over the resumption of train services.

Passenger train service along the Silchar-Lumding route, which was inaugurated last year, has been stalled since May 16 after a portion of the tracks got damaged at Maigrendisa in Dima Hasao district because of heavy rain and landslides.

Members of different organisations under the banner of Silchar-Lumding Broad Gauge Rupayan Sangram Committee today organised a protest in front of Silchar railway station, demanding a high-level probe into the construction.

Ajoy Roy, convener of the committee, said if pre-monsoon showers could cause serious damage to the tracks, the situation was likely to turn worse when the monsoon reaches its peak.

“There is every reason to infer that it is not only the geo-technical reason but also poor construction which is responsible for the massive damage. We are sure a geo-technical survey was conducted before laying the tracks. The question now arises whether the survey was actually done and if the NFR had paid attention to it,” he said.

Roy said crores of rupees were spent to construct the Silchar-Lumding broad-gauge line but it went out of service within six months of the launch of passenger trains.

It was reportedly learnt on June 23, 2016 that the NFR had decided to construct a diversion line at Maigrendisa to reconnect Silchar with Lumding. The move came after it failed to repair the damaged tracks in front of tunnel 8 at Maigrendisa despite repeated attempts for more than a month.

The committee today urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take immediate steps to implement the proposed Chandranathpur-Lanka broad-gauge project to connect Silchar with Lumding.

“In view of the tricky geological conditions and hilly terrain along Silchar-Lumding, a new alternative route has become the need of the hour. The NFR had submitted a detailed project report to the railway ministry three decades ago to lay broad gauge tracks from Chandranathpur to Lanka. The project was sanctioned but work has not yet been started,” said Arunangshu Bhattacharjee, a committee member.

NFR mulls New Line to resume train services between Silchar and Lumding

Maigrendisa landslide areaSilchar: The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has decided to construct a diversion at Maigrendisa in Dima Hasao district to reconnect Silchar with Lumding.

The move comes after the NFR failed to repair the tracks damaged owing to incessant rain and landslides in front of tunnel 8 at Maigrendisa despite repeated attempts for more than a month.

Chief engineer of NFR (construction) Rajendra Jinger told that they had started work on a diversion line, which will be 220-metres long. “All our attempts to repair the tracks on the old alignment went in vain because of swelling of soil. We are now constructing a diversion line, 10m away from the existing line,” he said.

Passenger train service along the route has been abandoned since May 16 after the tracks got damaged because of landslides. The route was thrown open for goods train on June 7 but stopped five days later after the bulging of tracks.

Sources said the NFR faced a tough time repairing the damaged 140m-long tracks at Maigrendisa.

“There were many occasions when the track was laid but within a few hours, we noticed parts of it were bulging. Moreover, it has been raining heavily for the past month. The rainfall in the hills crossed 300mm in three days, the highest in the past decade,” Jinger said.

He said the alignment of the diversion route would be a curvature one unlike the existing straight one.

Sources said the hillocks on either side of the tracks at Maigrendisa comprise a layer of black soil, which was unable to discharge water following the rain and later it led to landslide.

The diversion was undertaken following the advice of an Austrian expert Florian Krenn, who visited the site a few days back and submitted a report to the NFR.

Krenn is associated with Geo Consult, a private and independent engineering consultant providing various services in engineering on a global scale.

Asked about the probable date for completion of the work, Jinger said, “Work is going on in full swing. For the last two days, there has been no rain and the progress is impressive. If the weather supports us, we are likely to complete the diversion by July 7 or 8.”

After repeated failures to resolve the issue, NFR officials and workers also offered prayers to “Nag Mata” at Maigrendisa on June 13.

Asked if soil testing was not conducted before construction of the Silchar-Lumding broad-gauge project, Jinger said, “Everything was done according to rules. Soil was also tested. If the nature changes or reveals its fury, no one can do anything. We are making our best efforts to open the line as soon as possible,” he added.

On the other hand, different Dima Hasao organisations have demanded commencement of the services along the Silchar-Haflong route owing to the poor condition of roads.

NFR and IRCON officials makes courtesy call on Sikkim Governor, apprise progress of Railway works

Sikkim Railway : NF Railway and IRCON officials apprise Governor
Sikkim Railway : NF Railway and IRCON officials apprise Governor

Gangtok: H.K.Jaggi, General Manager, Northeast Frontier Railway (Construction) called on Governor of Sikkim, Shriniwas Patil at Raj Bhavan on 18th June, 2016. He was accompanied by Surendra Pal, Chief Executive Officer (Construction) and A .K.Goyal, Executive Director, IRCON.

It was a courtesy call by the officials who are on an official visit to Sikkim. During a short meeting, the General Manager apprised the Governor about the updates on the Railway Projects connecting Sikkim. He mentioned about the issues of land acquisition which he expects to be solved at the earliest and start construction of Sevoke Rangpo Rail Link. He further stated that 82% of the distance of the railway will be covered through tunnels and will cross mainly forest reserve and Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary in West Bengal.

Governor urged the officers to be proactive in solving the land acquisition issues and expedite the execution of project for the benefit of both the States and their people. Hon’ble Governor also suggested the officials to have meetings at the earliest possible with the concerned governments and authorities under which the proposed railway line falls.

NFR plans to tap Non-Conventional Energy

N.F.Railway to tap Solar Power to lower cost
N.F.Railway to tap Solar Power to lower cost

Guwahati: As a part of the Indian Railways’ plan to use non-conventional energy, the Northeast Frontier Railway has initiated steps for running the Guwahati Railway Station with solar power, while a feasibility study for using wind power in Haflong is also being initiated.

Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of the NF Railway, P.J.Sarma said that the Lumding Division of the NF Railway has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Container Corporation of India and Central Electronics Limited for installation of a 700-KW power grid station at the Guwahati Railway Station. This will be the first station under NF Railway to use solar power.

Sarma revealed that the total cost of installation of the power grid and maintenance for a period of five years would be around Rs 6.77 crore and the Container Corporation and the Central Electronics Limited would carry out the project under their corporate social responsibility and there would be no expenditure on the part of the Railways.

He said that the NF Railway, at present, does not have the required expertise for maintenance of such solar power stations, and that is why, the maintenance would be carried out by the Central Electronics Limited for a period of five years. After that, the power station would be handed over to the Railways. By that time, the Railways would be able to get the required expertise for its maintenance.

The CPRO said the project is likely to be completed by February next year and afterwards, the Guwahati Railway Station would be run mostly on solar power. He pointed out that it would reduce dependence on conventional power to a great extent and reduce the total expenditure of the Railways. If the project becomes successful in Guwahati, gradually other major railway stations of the region would be able to switch over to solar power in the years to come.

Meanwhile, the Railways has floated global tenders for feasibility study of harnessing wind power at Haflong station and other parts of the hill section. Sarma pointed out that the wind speed in Haflong is very strong compared to other parts of the State and that is why the decision to carry out the study for generating wind power has been taken.

If the NF Railway manages to gradually shift to non-conventional energy, the operational cost of the Railways would come down substantially, and hence the decision to reduce dependence on the conventional energy sources.

Sarma revealed that the Western Railway is the pioneer in the use of non-conventional energy sources and a few stations in that area are now being run on solar power.

NFR says Encroachments hampering its rail development projects in Assam

Guwahati: With About 164.50 hectare of railway land under encroachment and about 20,837 recorded cases of encroachments, especially in station and railway residential areas, the N F Railway (NFR) said that encroachment has emerged a major obstruction in execution of railway expansion projects.

NFR chief public relations officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma said that major projects in Assam like development of Agiathori as a world class station and other amenities at Amingaon area, works for new pit line and sick line at New Guwahati, expansion of railway stations at Silchar ,Hojai , Diphu, Tangla ,and Chaparmukh are all being hampered because of encroachment in railway area.

“In Guwahati development of an alternative entry road to Kamakhya railway station to ease out congestion is also not taking off due to illegal occupation of railway land by encroachers. Development of rail connectivity to Pandu port of Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) from Kamakhya station which is a long standing demand for the economic growth of the region is also plagued by encroachment issues,” Sharma.

While the NFR is tackling the menace by launching frequent eviction drives under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act 1971, Sharma said the state government’s home department has also directed to all deputy commissioners and commissioners of police to provide adequate security to the railway administration for carrying out eviction.

NFR however asked for strong action at the ground level to deal with encroachment.

Agartala-Kolkata train service, work on new India-Bangladesh Rail project from June

(File Photo) H.K.Jaggi,GM/NFR flagging off Kamakhya-Bhagat Ki Kothi Express at Kamakhya
(File Photo) HK Jaggi,GM/NFR flagging off Kamakhya-Bhagat Ki Kothi Express @ Kamakhya

A regular train service from Agartala to Kolkata via Guwahati on the newly-laid broad gauge line as well as work on a new India-Bangladesh railway project would start third week of June, a top railway official said on Wednesday.

“The works for new India-Bangladesh railway project and regular passenger train service from Agartala to Sealdah via Guwahati and Agartala to Silchar (in southern Assam) on the newly-laid broad gauge line would begin third week of this month,” Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) General Manager H. K. Jaggi told reporters after meeting Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and Transport Minister Manik Dey

“The date would be finalised after Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and Tripura Chief Minister mutually finalised the day according to their convenience in third week of June,” he added.

The Rs.968 crore Agartala (India)-Akhaura (Bangladesh) 15 km (5 km in India and 10 km in Bangladesh) railway project was finalised in January 2010 when Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during her visit to New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also discussed the railway project with Hasina during his visit to Dhaka in June last year. The Indian government would bear their entire expenditure.

Jaggi said that the Union Development of North Eastern Region Ministry has already released Rs.150 crore to acquire required land to lay rail line in Tripura and that the Chief Minister and Transport Minister had told him that the state government would soon start acquisition of land,.

“Following the Tripura government’s persistent persuasion and intervention by the Prime Minister’s Office, the DoNER Ministry has agreed to provide Rs.580 crore for the Tripura part of the Agartala-Akhaura railway project,” Dey told reporters.

“After we get Rs. 150 crore funds, released by the DoNER Ministry, at once we would start work for acquisition of required 67 acres land,” he said, addding that the Agartala-Akhaura railway project would provide a major boost to development and economy of northeastern India and eastern Bangladesh.

“India’s external affairs ministry would provide necessary funds for the Bangladesh portion of the Agartala-Akhaura rail project,” her said.

The 1,650-km mountainous route distance between Agartala and Kolkata via Guwahati would be reduced to only 550 km once the new rail track is linked through Bangladesh.

Currently, India and Bangladesh have four rail links with West Bengal.

The railway line from Guwahati passes through Lumding in Nagaon district (in central Assam) and southern Assam connecting Agartala and parts of Manipur and Mizoram with the rest of India.

The Guwahati-Silchar railway line is the lifeline for southern Assam comprising four districts – Cachar, Karimganj, Hailakandi, Dima Hasao district, known as Barak Valley, and the mountainous states of Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram, which are heavily dependent on this line for supply of foodgrain, fertilisers, petroleum products, construction materials and other commodities besides ferrying passengers.

The 437-km Lumding-Silchar and Badarpur-Agartala gauge conversion work was sanctioned in 1996.

It was declared a national project in 2004, thereby ensuring uninterrupted funding from the central government. The project was hit by insurgency from 2006 to 2009 and work could only gain speed after that.

In the first phase, the 210-km Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion project was completed last year. In the second phase, the 227-km Badarpur-Agartala gauge conversion was scheduled to be completed in March but was done three months earlier.

The Silchar-Jiribam (52 km) in Manipur and Silchar-Bhairabi (120 km) in Mizoram gauge conversion project are part of the Lumding-Silchar line along with other projects.

At an event in Shillong on May 27, Modi flagged-off the passenger trains to Mizoram and Manipur on the newly-laid broad gauge line.

With the completion of gauge conversion work right up to Agartala, it was connected with the country’s broad gauge railway network through Guwahati.

After India’s independence, Agartala is the first state capital to come up on the rail map (meter gauge line) – in October 2008.

Gauripur-Abhayapuri Rail line to be completed on war-footing: assures GM/NFR

N.F.Railway GM Mr.H.K. Jaggi while on an inspection
N.F.Railway GM Mr.H.K. Jaggi while on an inspection

Dhubri: Northeast Frontier Railway General Manager Mr.H.K.Jaggi today said the new railway line project between Gauripur (on Alipur Daur Division) and Abhayapuri (on Rangiya Division) will be expedited on a war footing and completed within the deadline.

Jaggi arrived at Golokganj in a special train, accompanied by Alipurduar divisional railway manager Sanjeev Kishore and a host of other top officials, and held a meeting in his conference hall inside the train.

He left for physical inspection of the work by car and assessed the progress at various places up to Abhayapuri in Bongaigaon district.

Talking to media at Golokganj, Jaggi said his priority was to complete the project within the deadline. “I have come here to inspect the progress of works between Gauripur to Abhayapuri and if it is found to be lagging, it will be expedited as there is no dearth of funds now.”

Asked about problems in acquiring land for the project at some places, Jaggi said there were some issues but those are being sorted out. Replying to a question about running trains on the new track till Bilasipara, he said some of the major railway bridges were yet be completed but stressed on running trains on the completed section within this year. He said trains would run on the entire route in 2018 as promised.

NF Railway General Manager Mr.H.K. Jaggi at Gauripur on Wednesday
NF Railway General Manager Mr.H.K. Jaggi at Gauripur on Wednesday

Several memorandums were submitted to Jaggi at Golokganj junction, including those by the residents of Gauripur and Golokganj Development Committee.

The delegation of Gauripur residents, led by social activist Kulodhar Das, handed over a memorandum to Jaggi and urged him to build the Gauripur railway junction as a replica of Gauripur Matiabag Palace, as had been done at various stations like Cooch Behar railway station, which is a replica of the Maharaja Palace (built on the lines of Buckingham Palace).

“Gauripur is the centre of Goalpariya culture. The interiors of the station should showcase the cultural features of the area, helping visitors to understand the significance of Goalpariya culture,” Jyotirmoy Chakraborty, a member of the delegation, said.

The delegation from Golokganj Development Committee also highlighted the inconveniences faced by commuters, including lack of lights, drinking water and reservation counters.

Railways will spend Rs.5000 Crore on North-East: Prime Minister

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today inaugurated new passenger trains for North Eastern region during interaction with members of self help groups in NE

PM Modi was speaking at the 65th plenary session of the North Eastern Council (NEC) in the Meghalaya capital
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was speaking at the 65th plenary session of the North Eastern Council (NEC) in the Meghalaya capital

Shillong: Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on Friday inaugurated the new passenger trains for North Eastern region during the interaction with members of self help groups in the North Eastern State of Meghalaya.

He also laid the foundation for a football stadium ‘Ampati’ in Meghalaya Capital City ‘Shillong’.

During his speech Narendra Modi said that better railway connectivity and massive infrastructure plans were on cards for the North eastern region and mentioned that New Delhi is highly focused towards achieving this objective.

Here are updates of PM Narendra Modi’s speech during his maiden visit to Shillong:

4.43 pm: In 2017, India is hosting U-17 FiFa World Cup. We need to take advantage of being a part of FIFA.

4.41 pm: New railway routes will boost economy in North-East

4.41 pm: Railway Ministry will spend Rs 5,000 crore on North-East

4.40 pm: Today is red letter day in history of North-East

4.30 pm: Today, we laid the foundation for a football stadium. We’re aware about love people of North East, especially Meghalaya have for football: PM Modi

4.20 pm: PM Narendra Modi lays foundation stone for new football stadium ‘Ampati’ in Shillong (Meghalaya)

4.10 pm: PM Modi inaugurates new passenger trains for NE during interaction with members of self help groups in NE

Earlier in the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the North Eastern Council (NEC) meeting in Shillong. He will also release a special cover and a stamp brought out by the Department of Posts to mark the occasion.

The trains include Bhairabi-Silchar and Jiribam-Silchar passenger trains which would bring Mizoram and Manipur on the broad gauge passenger railway map of India, while the Kamakhya-Katra Express would link Assam directly with Jammu and Kashmir.

Flagging off the trains during a public reception at the Polo grounds here, the Prime Minister said “We have sanctioned Rs 10,000 crore for the development of railway network in the North East region.”

He said the Railway ministry was planning to spend Rs 5000 crore during the current year for expanding rail network in the region.

Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh calls on PM Modi to discuss about the ongoing railway and infrastructure development activities in Arunachal Pradesh
Kalikho Pul, Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh calls on PM Modi to discuss about the ongoing railway and infrastructure development activities in Arunachal Pradesh

The Prime Minister said the centre has come up with a mission policy to upgrade roads, telecommunication, power and waterways in the region apart from railways.

“This will give a boost to the economic development of the region,” he said.

Earlier in the day, railway officials said at the NEC plenary meeting that commissioning of lines in the region has increased from 68 km in 2011-12 to 537 km in 2015-16.

Of the 25 ongoing railway projects with an anticipated cost of Rs 63,045 crore, Rs 29,095 crore have been spent since April 1 this year, they said.

Highlighting the targeted commissioning of some of the projects, the officials said the Bhairabi-Sairang (Mizoram) route was to be commissioned by 2018-19, and the Dimapur-Zubza (Nagaland), Sevok-Rangpo (Sikkim) and the Byrnihat-Shillong (Meghalaya) routes were set to be commissioned by 2019-20.

The deadline set for Tetelia-Byrhinat route in Meghalaya was by early next year, as per the 2020 vision document of the Indian Railways.

Record 545 km BG Rail lines commissioned in the Northeast by NDA in 2015-16

Train to NFR IndiaNew Delhi: Claiming that the Indian Railways has made much progress in the North East, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said that a record 545 km of BG line was commissioned in 2015-2016.

Interacting with regional media-persons on the occasion of completion of two years in office of the NDA government, Prabhu, however, admitted that a large number of projects in the North East were pending completion.

“The focus is now on completing the pending projects and we have prioritised them,” he said.

He said the average commissioning of BG line in 2009-2014 was 110 km and in 2014-2015 it was 450 km. In 2015-2016, the BG line commissioned in North East was 85 per cent in comparison to 2009-2014, Prabhu said.

The pace of commissioning of broad gauge line has increased against an average of 4.3 km per day to 7.8 km per day. “We will increase this pace to about 13 km per day in 2017-18 and 19 km per day in 2018-2019,” he declared.

As for electrification of railway tracks, Prabhu said that 1,730 km has been completed in 2015-2016. In comparison, in 2009-2014, 1,184 km of track was electrified.

As for capital investment, as compared to 2004-2009, when Rs 24,307 crore was invested, in 2015-2016 Rs 93,795 crore was invested. In 2014-2015, Rs 58,718 crore was invested in the North East, he added.

Claiming that there has been 151 per cent increase in project outlays in Assam and the northeastern States, the Railway Minister said that in the last two fiscal the outlay for projects was Rs 5,316.3 crore.

Prabhu further disclosed that at least 15 new trains have been introduced connecting North East with the rest of the country and connecting different cities within the region.

The new projects that have been sanctioned include the 176 km Bongaigaon-Goalpara-Guwahati line built at a cost of Rs 1,832 crore and the 102 km Digaru-Hojai line built at an estimated cost of Rs 870.96 crore.

Further, he said that four rail-over-bridges have been sanctioned at a cost of Rs 58.90 crore.

Modi to flag off Passenger Train services to Mizoram, Manipur

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday to flag-off Mizoram’s first broad-gauge passenger train from Bairabi to Silchar. PM will flag off passenger train services to Mizoram and Manipur on the newly-laid broad gauge line, and Kamakhya-Vaishno Devi Katra weekly train, an Indian Railways official said on Thursday.

Modi flagging off TrainNew Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday will flag off passenger train services to Mizoram and Manipur on the newly-laid broad gauge line, and Kamakhya-Vaishno Devi Katra weekly train, an Indian Railways official said on Thursday.

“The prime minister, accompanied by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, will use the remote control from Shillong to flag off the passenger train services to Mizoram and Manipur, and the Kamakhya-Vaishno Devi Katra weekly train,” Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) chief public relations officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma told.

“The Kamakhya-Vaishno Devi Katra weekly train was announced in the Railway Budget 2014-15,” he said.

“The prime minister would also attend the 65th Plenary session of the North Eastern Council (NEC) in Shillong on Friday. He will flag off the train services in the afternoon,” an NFR official said.

The metre gauge to broad gauge conversion projects of Silchar-Jiribam (52 km) rail tracks in Manipur and Silchar-Bhairabi (120 km) tracks in Mizoram were part of the Lumding-Silchar and Badarpur-Agartala gauge conversion projects.

The 437-km Lumding-Silchar and Badarpur-Agartala gauge conversion works were sanctioned in 1996 and completed earlier this year.

Another NFR official told IANS that the prime minister was scheduled to lay the foundation stone of the Agartala-Akhaura (Bangladesh) railway project and flag off regular passenger train service from Agartala to Sealdah, and Agartala to Silchar on the newly-laid broad gauge line. But these events would be held in June in Agartala.

The Rs.968-crore Agartala-Akhaura (5 km on the Indian side and 10 km on Bangladesh) railway project was finalised in January 2010 when Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met the then prime minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.

Subsequently, Modi discussed the railway project with Sheikh Hasina during his visit to Dhaka in June 2015

Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lay Foundation Stone for India-Bangladesh Rail project

Agartala: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to lay the foundation stone for a new India-Bangladesh railway project on May 27, a top railway official said on Tuesday.

A top official of Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) said that Modi on May 27 would also flag off a regular passenger train service from Agartala to Sealdah, Agartala to Silchar and passenger train services to Manipur (52 km) and Mizoram (84 km) on the newly-laid broad gauge line.

“Prime minister would attend the plenary session of North Eastern Council (NEC) in Shillong. From Shillong through remote control, the prime minister would lay the foundation stone of the Agartala (India)-Akhaura (Bangladesh) railway project,” a top official of NFR told.

Representational Image
Representational Image

“Modi would also flag off regular passenger train service from Agartala to Sealdah, Agartala to Silchar and passenger train services to Manipur and Mizoram on the newly laid broad gauge line,” the official added.

An official of the Tripura planning and coordination department said the prime minister would inaugurate the two-day (May 27-28) plenary session of NEC, a regional planning body, in Meghalaya capital Shillong.

“He would hold interactions with the chief ministers and governors of all the eight northeastern states during the plenary session,” the official added.

The Rs.968 crore Agartala-Akhaura railway project was finalised in January 2010 when Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met then prime minister Manmohan Singh during her visit to New Delhi.

“Following the Tripura government’s persistent persuasion and Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) intervention, the DoNER (Development of North Eastern Region) ministry has agreed to provide Rs.580 crore for the new railway project,” Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey told reporters.

“If the DoNER ministry releases the funds, the necessary work for acquisition of required 67 acres land would start immediately,” he said.

During his recent visit to Tripura, Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha said the PMO has been supervising the new India-Bangladesh railway project with Tripura.

He said the 15 km (5 km on Indian side and 10 km on Bangladesh) long Agartala-Akhaura railway project would provide a major boost to development and economy of the northeastern region of India and eastern Bangladesh.

“The project would give a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Act East’ policy,” Sinha added.

Modi discussed the railway project with Hasina during his visit to Dhaka in June last year.

“India’s external affairs ministry would provide necessary funds for the Bangladesh portion of the Agartala-Akhaura rail project. The DoNER ministry’s funds would be spent for the Indian portion of the project,” Tripura minister said.

The 1,650-km distance between Agartala and Kolkata would be reduced to only 550 km once the new rail track is linked through Bangladesh.

Currently, India and Bangladesh have four rail links with West Bengal.

The railway line from Guwahati passes through Lumding in Nagaon district (in central Assam) and southern Assam connecting land-locked Tripura’s capital Agartala and parts of Manipur and Mizoram with the rest of India.

The Guwahati-Silchar railway line is the lifeline for southern Assam comprising four districts – Cachar, Karimganj, Hailakandi, Dima Hasao district, known as Barak Valley, and the mountainous states of Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram.

These states are heavily dependent on this railway line for supply of foodgrain, fertilisers, petroleum products, construction materials and other commodities besides ferrying passengers.

The 437-km Lumding-Silchar and Badarpur-Agartala gauge conversion work was sanctioned in 1996.

It was declared a national project in 2004, thereby ensuring uninterrupted funding from the central government’s general budget. The project was hit by insurgency from 2006 to 2009 and work could only gain speed after that turbulent period.

In the first phase, the 210-km Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion project was completed last year.

In the second phase, the 227-km Badarpur-Agartala gauge conversion was scheduled to be completed in March but was completed three months earlier.

The Silchar-Jiribam (52 km) in Manipur and Silchar-Bhairabi (84 km) in Mizoram gauge conversion project are part of the Lumding-Silchar line along with other projects.

With the completion of gauge conversion work right up to Agartala, the Tripura capital was connected with the country’s broad gauge railway network through Guwahati at a distance of about 600 km this month.

After India’s independence, Agartala is the first state capital of the country to come up on the rail map (meter gauge line) in October 2008.

Manipur Lacks Tripura’s Resolve: Ultra menace hits Jiribam-Tupul Rail Line Expansion Project

That resolve is missing in Manipur. With ministers and officials backing different insurgent groups, usually belonging to their ethnicity, the militants have a field day and Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal project has become a casualty. Future ‘Trans-Asian Railway Project’ badly hit by repeated Extortion, Abductions in the North-Eastern India

Imphal: Work on the 84-km Jiribam-Tupul railway expansion project in Manipur, something that could boost Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious ‘Act East’ policy in linking up with tiger economies of Southeast and East Asia, is way behind schedule.

Manipur Rail abductionsThe Trans-Asian Railway project can be crucial in transforming India’s ‘Look East policy’ into ‘Act East’ and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pushed for it strongly. While funds are not holding back the drive, the law and order situation is certainly hampering the project.

The plan was to extend the railway line from Imphal to Moreh on the Manipur-Myanmar border. Indian railways would then link up with Myanmar railway at the Moreh-Tamu border point. When completed, the line is expected to put Imphal on India’s railway map. The first phase of the Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal broad gauge rail project in Manipur was to be completed by March 2016 .

“How can there be a Delhi-Hanoi Trans-Asian Railway if India cannot complete its railway expansion through Manipur before it links up with the Myanmar railway system?” says logistic expert Atin Kumar Sen, a former office-bearer with the Asian Council of Logistics Management.

But it is not funds that is holding up work on the Manipur railway project. The government has allotted Rs 1,397 crore for the Jiribam-Tupul segment and the implementing agency, the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), was comfortable with it.

Running Behind Schedule:

>  Act East policy will remain a cliché unless key projects like the Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal railway line is
    completed.
>  The project was to be completed by March 2018; the first section by March 2016.
>  Work on the first section, Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal, is far past schedule.
>  The main reason for disruption of work is rampant extortion by rebel groups in the area.
>  The Manipur government is doing little to control, let alone crush the rebel groups.

But officials are worried over the law and order situation and threat of abductions and attacks faced by companies working on the project.

“Law and order is horrible, all companies working on the project suffer huge extortion,” said Sen.

Work stopped for weeks after Mohammed Munir Raza, a manager with Coastal Projects, was kidnapped by militants of the Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF) in January this year.

The ZUF is one of the more than dozen armed groups that are forcing companies to pay through their nose or suffer abductions.

Workers and managers often flee construction sites for fear of abductions or attacks when their companies say no more payments can be made.

The Manipur government has done little to control the situation that threatens to derail one of India’s most ambitious infrastructure projects.

What worries companies the most is that the ZUF, despite being down to hardly 25 activists, can go scot free because it enjoys backing of a top tribal minister in the Ibobi Singh government.

Intelligence officials say a former home ministry official who was behind the ZUF’s formation as a ‘counter-weight’ to Naga rebel group NSCN is now back as a senior official in his parent Manipur cadre.

We want the army to conduct a sweeping combing operation here, like it once did in the Loktak area . And it should remain to command and control the central forces, so that such a crucial national project is completed in due time:  says a corporate boss of a company involved in the Jiribam-Tupul section of the project.

“If someone with 25 activists can hold a national project like this to ransom, we would expect the Centre to deploy the army and central paramilitary forces to ensure completion of this project,” says a top manager of a company working in Tupul.

But home ministry officials say that may not be possible because law and order is a state subject and any uncalled-for central intervention will provoke cries of federalism in danger, especially because the Manipur government is run by the Congress and the one in Delhi by the BJP.

The Jiribam-Tupul section has 112 minor bridges, six major bridges, three road overbridges and two road under-bridges.

In the first phase, there will be 34 tunnels covering a length of 39,401 metres.

The longest tunnel in the Jiribam-Tupul section will be 4.9 km in length, while the longest tunnel in the Tupul-Imphal section will be 10.75 km.

The 12.5 km track linking the main line from Jiribam to Dholakhal section and 1.20 km of loop line have been completed.

But the rest of the Jiribam-Tupul project, that was to be fully completed by March 2016, is way behind schedule.

The railways had told the Modi government that the Tupul-Imphal section, covering 27 km, cannot now be completed within the target date of March 2018, since the first phase (Jiribam-Tupul) is behind schedule.

Modi’s plans to take the railway line to Moreh, 109 km from Imphal on the Manipur-Myanmar border, looks like distant.

Security Issue

However, huge extortion demands and occasional abductions by a host of underground militant groups have badly affected work on the Jiribam-Tupul section of the Jiribam-Imphal railway line.

The implementing agency, the Northeast Frontier Railway, is upset with the Manipur government for failing to provide security to companies working on the project.

A ‘Frankenstein’ Let Loose in Manipur?

In January, militants of the Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF) kidnapped Mohammad Munir Raza, a manager of the Coastal Projects Limited, and one of his local associates. They demanded a ransom of Rs 1.5 crore. Angry workers and frightened managers from all companies suspended work thereafter. Raza is from Bihar and his family and company’s appeals did not have any effect on the Manipur government.

Interestingly, intelligence officials say the ZUF is a small group with barely 25-30 militants now. They say it was floated by the Home Ministry as a counter-weight to the Naga rebel group, NSCN(I-M) .

The official who was behind the move is now said to be back in his home cadre, Manipur, as a senior official. Which is why it comes as no surprise that there is very little action when companies complain about threats and abduction by ZUF.

ZUF’s leader Benjamin has a free run of the area – state police does not touch him because he is also said to be close to a top tribal politician in the Ibobi Singh government .

A senior official of one of the construction companies involved with the project says there is a need for ‘direct deployment’ of central para-military forces under the army’s command to ensure completion of this project.

If states like Manipur mess up that way, this is something worth considering .

Manipur Lacks Tripura’s Resolve

Tripura witnessed a similar problem in extending the railway to capital Agartala — NLFT and ATTF militants abducted and even killed managers of companies involved with the project for failing to pay up.

But then it crushed the tribal insurgency by some determined action and the moment that was done, Tripura pushed for completing the railway line to Agartala .

That resolve is missing in Manipur. With ministers and officials backing different insurgent groups, usually belonging to their ethnicity, the militants have a field day and Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal project has become a casualty.

A Bridge Too Far?

Manipur now has the only rail head at Jiribam which is an extension of the 1.5 km Lumding-Silchar meter gauge section in Assam. The first phase of the project covers 84 km of the Jiribam-Tupul section .

Railway officials say the Jiribam-Tupul section will have 112 minor bridges, six major bridges, three road over bridges (ROB) and two road under bridges (RUB). In the first phase, there will be a total of 34 tunnels covering a total length of 39,401 meters. The longest tunnel in Jiribam-Tupul section will be 4.9 km in length, while the longest tunnel in the Tupul-Imphal section will be 10.75 km.

The railways had told Modi government that the Tupul-Imphal section covering 27 km was to be completed by March 2018 with final location survey completed. The Railway Board has sanctioned Rs 1,397 crore for this section. There will be 12 tunnels with a total length of 15.1 km, three major and 27 minor bridges along with two station buildings. But if the first phase is behind schedule, delay on the second one is inevitable.

Numaligarh Refinery supplies High Speed Diesel to Bangladesh via Railways

Railways Oil TankerSiliguri: India is getting into business mode with Bangladesh in the hydrocarbon sector with a rake of high-speed diesel being sent by Numaligarh Refinery Ltd to Bangladesh for the first time through railways from Siliguri.

The first goodwill rake of high-speed diesel to Bangladesh will be flagged off by Union minister of state (in-charge) petroleum and natural gas, Dharmendra Pradhan, on Thursday from the marketing terminal of the NRL at Siliguri to Parbatipur inBangladesh.

A total of 2,200 metric tonnes of high-speed diesel would be transported by 50 wagons of Indian Railways. It will reach Parbatipur oil depot, via Malda in West Bengal, covering a distance of 150km, on March 19.

“The entire exercise is being done so that both the countries get into the business modeand that is why this consignment is a ‘goodwill’ gesture,” an NRL official said, adding that transporting it through railways would reduce time than sending it through the usual waterway route.

The NRL had used the waterway route to send diesel to Bangladesh twice – in 2007 and 2008 – before it stopped sending due to various reasons. The refinery had exported 3,400 metric tonnesof high-speed diesel to Bangladesh in two consignments (2007 and 2008). The reason for exiting from the waterway route is the long time it takes.

In April last year, the NRL had inked an MoU with Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) in Dhaka for exporting petroleum products through a pipeline.

The construction of the 135km pipeline – of which 130km will be in Bangladesh and 5km in India – would take at least a couple of years to be completed. It will be implemented through a joint venture company formed by the NRL and the BPC.

The move to get into business mode with Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries follows from the fact that the excess refining capacity in the Northeast is an opportunity for exporting petroleum products, subject to pricing considerations, to neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal.

According to the Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 for Northeast India, which was launched last month, Bangladesh is a net importer of crude oil and petroleum products with minimal domestic production.A majority of the country’s petro-products come from Malaysia and Singapore.In 2012-13, Bangladesh imported petroleum products totalling only $138 million from India, while imports from Malaysia and Singapore added up to $1,362 million.

In 2014-15, Bangladesh had imported 4 million metric tonnes per annum (MMTPA) of petroleum products, which will rise to 5.4 MMTPA in 2029-30.

“The current demand of petroleum products is around 3.2 MMTPA in the northeastern region. With excess refining capacity of 7 MMTPA in the region, after accounting for NRL’s expansion, the Northeast will have excess capacity. India, already a net exporter of petroleum products, can utilise the excess capacity better by catering to demands in neighbouring nations rather than exporting to markets located at a considerable distance,” says the Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 for Northeast India.

Can India sustain diesel exports to Bangladesh?

Initiating energy trade with neighbours is a welcome step. But has India done enough home-work to ensure that the recent supply diesel to Bangladesh is sustainable?

On March 17, Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan flagged off a train load of 2,200 tonnes of Euro-III diesel from the West Bengal border town of Siliguri.

Crossing borders Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan flagging off the Indo-Bangladesh Goodwill Rake in Siliguri, West Bengal (file photo). The diesel was received in Bangladesh with enthusiasm
Crossing borders Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan flagging off the Indo-Bangladesh Goodwill Rake in Siliguri, West Bengal (file photo). The diesel was received in Bangladesh with enthusiasm

The oil was pumped from the 3 million tonne per annum (mtpa) Numaligarh Refinery Ltd (NRL), located 650 km north-east, in Assam, by pipeline to Siliguri.

The train first went 260 km south to Malda before covering another 250 km to reach Parbatipur in Dinajpur district of north Bangladesh, where a senior Bangladeshi Minister received the “goodwill rake” a day later, with much fanfare.

The enthusiasm on the Bangladesh side is understandable. The country currently imports petroleum products through the Chittagong seaport in the south.

In the absence of pipeline infrastructure in Bangladesh, the diesel is transported by a combination of river and road transport to the consumption centres in the north at $10 a barrel above the FOB (free on board) price.

NRL matched the landed cost of fuel in the north and saved Bangladesh the hassle of transporting it from the south.

Last year, India and Bangladesh signed a preliminary agreement for a long-term deal. The deal rests on two factors — the proposed expansion of NRL from 3 mtpa to 9 mtpa and the construction of a 135-km ‘friendship pipeline’ of 1 mtpa capacity from Siliguri to Parbatipur by NRL and Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC).

Ideally, this should help NRL achieve economy of scale and reduce the landed cost of fuel in Bangladesh, making it a win-win deal.

A press release from the Centre didn’t give any projections on future rail consignments but hinted that the exercise may be repeated in the intermittent period.

“Once the NRL refinery expansion is complete, India will be in a position to export petroleum products on a regular and long-term basis. Prior to… (that) rail is an effective mode of transport with minimum loss and pollution,” the release said.

Right candidate

With 160 mt annual consumption against a refining capacity of nearly 220 mt, India is an exporter of refined products, and it makes economic sense to tap the markets next door. But is NRL the right candidate for it? The refinery is now running at less than 80 per cent capacity owing to dwindling crude production in Assam.

With no upside visible in crude production in the North-East, the capacity expansion project should bank on pumping imported crude all the way from Paradip port in Odisha, some 1,600 km from Numaligarh by road.

It means a good part of the proposed ₹21,000-crore NRL expansion project will be spent in laying pipelines that will first take crude 1,600 km north and bring products 650 km south, either for another 135-km pipeline travel or over 500-km rail to Bangladesh.

The IOC alternative

There is an alternative. IndianOil’s 15 mtpa Paradip refinery will start producing at full scale in two months.

It will create redundancy at the company’s (also port-based) Haldia refinery in Bengal. The excess capacity can be used for rail or river based supplies to Bangladesh. Considering IOC’s extensive product pipeline network, probably it wouldn’t be difficult to engage it in pipeline transfer too. Whatever the possibilities, the decision-making should essentially be a business decision. But available information suggests it is far from a business decision.

And that created the next set of the problems.

The NRL expansion proposal is unusually costly and the Centre is yet to approve it. To make it viable, it has to grant huge capital subsidies (nearly half the project cost), most of which will be spent in laying those pipelines.

That’s not all. North-East refineries enjoy 50 per cent excise benefit on domestic sales. It means NRL will lose profit opportunity on every consignment of diesel exported to Bangladesh.

Of course, a subsidy deal can make it profitable. But who will gain from that? Is a modern day refinery — that can be run by 100-odd people — connected by underground pipelines an employment generating exercise?

Or, can the subsidy amount be better spent in revamping the dilapidated highway infrastructure in Assam?

First Commercial Broad Guage Freight Train arrives in Tripura

Train towards TripuraAgartala: The much awaited first commercial freight train arrived in Tripura today from Assam amid rousing welcome, ending an old demand for broad gauge railway connectivity between Tripura and the rest of India.

In presence of thousands of cheering people, besides Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey and senior officials of Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), the freight train with 21 wagons arrived at the Jirania railway station, 12 km from Agartala.

In his brief deliberations at Jirania railway station, Mr Dey said: “If such goods trains are operated on a regular basis by the NFR, the availability of foodgrains, transport fuels, essentials and other commodities would increase and prices would be reasonable.”

“Railway connectivity is crucial for land-locked Tripura. We expect that the NFR would soon run regular passenger trains between Tripura and the rest of India as the broad gauge railway track is ready to use,” the minister added.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Saturday flagged off in Silchar the Poorvottar Sampark Kranti Express, a weekly train connecting Silchar in southern Assam with New Delhi and two commercial freight trains to Agartala (Jirania) in Tripura and Jiribam in Manipur bringing the two north-eastern states on the broad gauge railway map of India.

The express train will run between New Delhi and Silchar, southern Assam’s main commercial city, via Guwahati, New Coochbehar and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal.

Earlier on February 1, the Silchar-Sealdah Kanchanjunga Express began operations, meeting a long-standing demand of the people to link southern Assam with the country’s mainland.

Assam’s Barak Valley was brought on the broad gauge rail map early last year. And a regular passenger train service between Silchar and Guwahati started on November 21 last year.

The 437-km Lumding-Silchar and Badarpur-Agartala gauge conversion work was sanctioned in 1996. It was declared a national project in 2004, thereby ensuring uninterrupted funding from the central government’s general budget. The project was hit by insurgency from 2006 to 2009 and works could only gain speed after that turbulent period.

The Lumding-Silchar line is the lifeline for southern Assam, known as Barak Valley, and the mountainous states of Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram. These states are heavily dependent on this railway line for supply of food grain, fertilisers, petroleum products, construction materials and other commodities.

This railway connectivity is the lifeline for millions in Tripura, western Manipur and Mizoram besides southern Assam, comprising four important districts.

Lumding is an important railway junction in Assam and falls under Guwahati-Dibrugarh broad-gauge section.

In the first phase, the 210-km Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion project was completed early last year.

In the second phase, the 227-km Badarpur-Agartala gauge conversion was undertaken. It was scheduled to be completed in March but was completed three months earlier.

With the completion of gauge conversion work right up to Agartala, the Tripura capital was connected with the country’s railway network through Guwahati with a distance of about 600 km.

Barak Valley now connected with Manipur, Tripura and Delhi

After 69 years of independence, Southern Assam gets direct train to New Delhi. Focus is to connect North-east with rest of India via a robust rail network; said Suresh Prabhu, Union Minister of Railways

Suresh Prabhu flags off the trains at Silchar railway station on Saturday
Suresh Prabhu flags off the trains at Silchar railway station on Saturday

Silchar: Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today flagged off three trains, connecting the Barak valley with Manipur and Tripura as well as with Delhi via the rail route.

People of southern Assam’s multi-ethnic Barak valley bordering Bangladesh had a key role in the Independence movement of India. But it took 69 years since Independence to link the land-locked region that not only has three districts of Assam but is also the gateway by road to Tripura, Mizoram and parts of Manipur, to get its first direct trains to the national capital.

Prabhu flagged off the first freight trains from Badarpur in Karimganj district of Assam to Jirania in Agartala and to Jiribam in Manipur by remote from Silchar railway station at 2.58pm. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Saturday flagged off the weekly Silchar-New Delhi Poorvottar Sampark Kranti special express at a colourful ceremony at Silchar railway station in Cachar district of Southern Assam bordering Bangladesh. Prabhu declared that by 2020, all the state capitals of Northeast will have direct rail connectivity to New Delhi.

In a historic moment for the people of Barak valley, he also flagged off the Poorvottar Sampark Kranti Express from Silchar to New Delhi at 2.45pm.

Addressing the gathering at the Silchar railway station, Prabhu said all the capitals of the northeastern states would be brought under the railway map by 2020.

“It’s really very unfortunate that the people of this region had to wait for long to get railway services. We are determined to connect all the eight states of the Northeast by 2020. There will be no dearth of funds for the completion of this dream project,” he added.

The railway minister today announced that a passenger train would begin plying between Agartala and Silchar by April 14.

“I also request the NF Railway authorities to start a new Silchar-Guwahati inter-city express before the beginning of the new year. It will be a gift for the people of this valley on the occasion of the Indian New Year,” he added.

Prabhu also announced that he would try his best to run a train from Silchar to Tinsukia and another train from here to either Mumbai or Chennai soon.

The railway minister said the gauge-conversion work on the Agartala-Bangladesh route had also been started.

Silchar-Delhi train flag off“We are committed to improve railway infrastructure in the Northeast. We provided an all-time high budget allotment of Rs 5,300 crore to the projects in this region in 2015-16. I assure you that there will be no dearth of funds in this mission,” he added.

He underscored the importance of railway connectivity in bringing development to a particular place. “Better railway connectivity will also provide better marketing facilities and contribute to the socio-economical development of this region,” he said.

With the gauge conversion of the erstwhile metre-gauge line from Arunachal village near Silchar in Assam to Jiribam in Imphal East district of Manipur, one more northeastern state has been brought onto the broad-gauge railway map of India. The revised estimated cost of this line is Rs 252 crore.

The gauge-conversion of Badarpur-Baraigram was sanctioned in 2003-04 and Baraigram to Kumarghat in Tripura in 2007-08 as material modification to Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion project at an estimated cost of Rs 565 crore. The work has been completed in this route.

A trial freight train was taken on the section and then up to Agartala on January 13 this year. To connect the capital of Tripura, the Kumarghat-Agartala broad-gauge line (109km) was sanctioned in 1996-97.

Addressing the people at the inaugural ceremony, Prabhu said that besides Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura, Manipur will be connected in the railway circuit within 2017-19 and Aizawl will also be connected in the same period.

“The North East has the capacity to contribute significantly to the nation’s development. But the region and people living in the states here need better connectivity to stay connected with the rest of India. It is a historic day for the people of the Barak Valley, who have long been waiting for better connectivity. We must turn our promises into performance. All the State capitals of the North East will be connected by railways by 2020,” Prabhu assured the gathering.

Prabhu said efforts will be made to extend rail routes to Kohima, Shillong and Gangtok within 2020 and officials have been instructed to do their best to achieve this mission.

He said that “acche din” for the people of the Barak Valley began with the starting of the Silchar-Guwahati passenger express on November 21 last. He announced that the Silchar-Agartala inter-city express and passenger trains, Silchar-Guwahati and Silchar-Tinsukia train services will be started within April 14. He also said that the Railways is aware of the need for trains from Silchar to Mumbai and Chennai and the issue will be discussed for introducing trains on the said routes at the earliest.

He also assured Silchar MP Susmita Dev that there will be no dearth of funds for ushering in development in the Barak Valley.

BJP MPs from Guwhati and Mangaldai, Bijoya Chakravarty and Ramen Deka, also spoke on the occasion. NF Railway General Manager HK Jaggi delivered the welcome address.

The Minister inaugurated the commercial BG freight trains from Badarpur to Jirania (Tripura) and Badarpur-Jiribam of Manipur this afternoon in the presence of NFR GM HK Jaggi, NFR Chief Administrative Officer Ajit Pandit, Chief Engineer Rabindra Ram and several other NFR officials, besides a huge gathering at the Silchar Railway Station. Immediately after the inauguration, two goods trains started their journey from Badarpur to Jirania and another goods train started moving from Badarpur to Jiribam. A large number of people who gathered at the Badarpur station greeted the Sampark Kranti express as soon as it arrived.

Khongsang-Dimapur Rail Line: Minister assures necessary fund allocation

Rail workersImphal: The Railway Ministry has approved construction of a new railway line from Khongsang, Tamenglong district to Dimapur, Nagaland, said BJP Manipur Pradesh executive member .

Speaking to media persons at their Nityaipat Chuthek office here today, Adim Panmei said that they called upon Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on December 28 and reviewed the work progress of Jiribam-Tupul railway work.

The State delegates proposed a new railway project which would connect Khongsang to Dimapur and the Railway Minister approved the same proposal.

Suresh Prabhu assured that necessary fund would be incorporated in the next Union Budget for construction of broad gauge railway line from Khongshang to Dimapur via Kaikho, Bamgaijang, Dilhuan, Tabanglong, Tamenglong, Dailong, Tamei, Dikiulam and Konphung, claimed Adim Panmei who contested the last Assembly election from Nungba Assembly segment.

He went on to decry that no noteworthy development works have been accomplished in the hill districts of Manipur during the past 12 years of Congress rule.

Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam never bothers to find out the grievances and aspirations of the people of his home constituency, he claimed.

As he opted for helicopter service rather than travelling by road to meet people ofhis home district, the Deputy Chief Minister has no idea about the plight of the people of Tamenglong district, he asserted.

When a public leader does not bother to listen to the grievances and complaints of public, he is no longer fit to remain a public leader.

Since the Congress party came to power in the State, Tamenglong district has degenerated into the most backward district of the country, Adim Panmei decried.

He also prayed that the new year may bring peace, cordiality and progress to all the people of Manipur.

General Secretary (administration) M Ashnikumar said that the 10 years of Congress rule is a dark period for Manipur.

He also wished speedy development and a secure environment with the arrival of new year.

Reacting to Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam’s comparison of BJP to bubbles, Ashnikumar compared Congress party to a dead tree .

BJP Manipur Pradesh media affairs secretary L Basanta was also present at the press meet.

GM/NFR meets Manipur CM on Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal Rail project

Imphal: General manager of Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) HK Jaggi called on Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh at Imphal on Friday and apprised him of the progress on the Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal rail project.

Jaggi was on a three-day visit to Manipur to inspect the ongoing project. The Jiribam to Dholakhal (12 km) stretch will be commissioned by March 31, 2016, and the Dholakhal to Tupul (72 km) stretch, by March 31, 2017, he informed Ibobi Singh. He further informed the chief minister that construction work has started between Tupul and Imphal (27 km) and thanked him for supporting the railways for the national project.

Ibobi Singh promised Jaggi of further help and cooperation and requested further extension of the rail network in Manipur from Imphal to Senapati and Churachandpur.

Mohd Jamshed takes over as GM, Northeast Frontier Railway

Guwahati: Mohd. Jamshed has taken over as General Manger of North Frontier Railways, according to an official release.

Jamshed, during his recent posting as Additional Member Railway Board, was Chairman of the Committee on Traffic Optimisation set up by Suresh Prabhu, Minister for Railways.

Prior to his promotion as GM, he has held several important assignments in the Ministry of Railways and on the Northern, Eastern and Central Railways, including Additional Member, Railway Board; Chief Operations Manager; Chief Vigilance Officer; Chief Safety Officer; Divisional Railway Manager; and Executive Director, Railway Board.

He was Member of the Advisory Council for developing Indian Railways’ IT Vision; Coordinated Indian Railways’ Freight and Passenger outreach initiatives; and was instrumental in paperless mobile-based ticketing systems launched by the Minister of Railways recently.

Bibek Debroy: Problems of Indian Railways in the Northeast

Since broad gauge Lumding-Silchar line was opened for goods traffic in March, after about Rs 5,500 cr was spent on upgrade, there have been 9 derailments & 14 instances of track-subsiding. This gives rise to questions about construction quality

Bibek Debroy bigUnless you are interested in birds or unless you are familiar with the northeast, there is no reason for you to have heard of a village named Jatinga. It is a place where birds of various species ‘commit suicide’ at the end of the monsoon. This is a myth. What’s true is that young and migratory birds are attracted by the lights of torches and distracted in the night. They are then captured with bamboo poles and killed. You might find it a bit difficult to visit Jatinga by train. Most people use Haflong, in Dima Hasao district and Assam’s only hill station. Both Jatinga and Haflong are in what is called the hill section, one of India’s mountain railways, though certainly not as famous as Darjeeling Himalayan, Kalka-Shimla or Nilgiri Mountain. (Trains stop for hardly a minute in Jatinga; they stop longer in Haflong, that is, Lower Haflong and Haflong Hill.) This hill section is the Lumding-Halflong-Badarpur stretch and used to be a metre gauge line, built in the 1890s by what was then Assam Bengal Railway. Other than people, it was used to ship tea, coal and timber from Upper Assam, with connectivity to Chittagong port. Though building started in the 1890s, it was opened for operations in 1904.

There were 37 tunnels on this stretch. Near Jatinga, there was also the steepest railway gradient in the world. As the train zigged and zagged, those steam engines had a system of catching, which meant another engine at the rear for pushing. As a child, because my father worked in that part of the world, I recall travelling quite a bit along the hill section. You watched out for tunnels, dark and forbidding. As soon as the train entered a tunnel, there were howls, not from passengers, but from other creatures, residing in the tunnels. I was told these were “ullukas”. Until much later, I never quite figured out what ‘ullukas’ were. They couldn’t have been owls (‘ullu’ in Hindi or ‘uluka’ in Sanskrit). These were Hoolock gibbons, found all over the northeast. (If you want to see one, your best chance is in Balpakram National Park in the Garo Hills.) If I remember right, the hill section then had the longest railway tunnel in India, between Haflong and Jatinga and well over 3 km, probably closer to 4 km. If I remember right again, it was famous as tunnel no 10. You leant out of the window, heard the gibbons, smelt the smoke and got coal dust and soot in your hair.

Those were the days. But after Independence, those weren’t quite the days. This metre gauge line was the only means of railway access for Tripura, Mizoram and parts of Manipur and Assam’s Barak Valley, as connections through Bangladesh had been severed. The Agartala-Akhaura railway project has now been revived and once that is completed, the Agartala-Kolkata railway distance will become 515 km, compared to the present 1,650 km. To return to Lumding-Badarpur, from metre gauge, this was to be converted to broad gauge, under Indian Railways’ unigauge project. This isn’t just about Lumding-Badarpur, it is about the entire 210-km-long Lumding-Silchar stretch, with additional lines that connect other northeastern states. By 2020, all northeastern states are projected to be connected through railway networks. For example, Meghalaya was connected in November 2014. Arunachal Pradesh was connected in February 2015 and so on. The Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion was thought of in the 1980s and formally sanctioned in 1996. Because of this, the train between Lumding and Lower Haflong, Hill Queen Express, had its last run in September 2014, amidst a lot of nostalgia. Other than northeastern connectivity, the Lumding-Badarpur metre gauge portion had become a bit of an anomaly, as Guwahati-Lumding-Dibrugarh-Tinsukia had become broad gauge by 1997.

The years 1996 to 2015 is a long time. Let’s not get into post-mortems of why it took so long. There was opposition, seeking to ensure that the heritage status of hill section was preserved. There were law and order issues. In the 1890s, the British faced much worse. To celebrate 150 years, Indian Railways commissioned a book. This was by Arup Kumar Datta and titled Indian Railways: The Final Frontier. This was released in 2002 by the then railway minister and documents what the British had to go through in the Northeast. All problems were sorted out and in March 2015, the current railway minister inaugurated the broad gauge Lumding-Silchar line by flagging off a goods train, via a video conferencing link. But there is a catch. There is a Commission of Railway Safety, independent of the railway ministry and under the administrative control of the civil aviation ministry. Having inspected the line (specifically the Lumding-New Halfong section), the commissioner of railway safety said this bit was unsafe for passenger traffic. After having taken such a long time and spent an estimated Rs 5,500 crore on upgrade, how can there be nine derailments and 14 instances of track-subsiding in the four months that this line has been opened for goods traffic? As far as I can understand, Indian Railways has promised that these problems will be sorted out by November 2015. But questions about quality of construction remain.


The writer is a member of the National Institution for Transforming India Aayog. The views are personal

Guwahati High Court issues Show Cause notice to Railways

Guwahati High CourtGawahati High Court has issued show-cause notices to the Union ministry of railways and the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), asking why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them for failure to complete the Silchar-Lumding broad-gauge project within the stipulated date.

The bench, comprising Chief Justice K.Sreedhar Rao and Justice P.K.Saikia, served the notices to R.N.Singh, Secretary of the Ministry of Railways, R.K.Gupta, General Manager of NFR, B.N.Bhaskar, Deputy Chief Engineer of NFR, and Ajit Pandit, Chief Administrative Officer, NFR, yesterday in connection with a contempt petition filed by a Silchar-based NGO – Citizens’ Forum.

Shyamal Kanti Deb and Dhruva Kumar Saha had filed the public interest litigation (PIL) before the high court in 2013. In its earlier judgment, the court had asked railway authorities to complete the project within the scheduled deadline – March 31, 2015 – otherwise risk being held in contempt of court.

Citizens’ Forum president Deb told it was a “historic” order and now the railway authorities would be bound to reveal the reasons behind the delay in commencing the passenger train service along the 210km Silchar-Lumding broad-gauge route.

“When the passenger train service was not started even after three months from the regular running of the freight trains along the route, we wrote to the Union ministry of railways and the NFR on July 6 this year, requesting them to adhere to the court’s order and commence the passenger service. In reply to our petition, the NFR authorities informed us that the passenger service would begin within August this year,” Deb said

“After the railway authorities failed to run the passenger trains on the route, we served an ultimatum to them, urging (them) to reveal the reasons behind the delay. But we did not receive any reply, which compelled us to file a contempt petition before the high court on September 30,” he explained.

Citizens’ Forum secretary Saha today said the high court had not mentioned any fixed date for submitting the reply, which meant the railway authorities have to submit it as early as possible.

“Now, everything will come to the public domain. The railway authorities will have to speak the truth about the reasons behind the delay as they can’t lie to the court,” he added.

The first broad-gauge engine chugged into Silchar from Lumding on March 13 this year. Just three days later, a special train with high-ranking NFR officials reached here. Since then, freight trains are running regularly along the route.

Lumding-Silchar BG Rail line expected to become Functional by November

Broad Gauge Railway Track Machines on the newly laid Silchar-Lumding broad-gauge route
Broad Gauge Railway Track Machines on the newly laid Silchar-Lumding broad-gauge route

Guwahati: The 210-kilometer Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion is expected to be over shortly. Regular trains are expected to run in the section starting this November, the railways said.

“Already we have run goods train. However, due to heavy rainfall, there is some cuts and slips,” General Manager of Northeast Frontier Railway RK Gupta said. The railways is hopeful of starting passenger train service by the first week of November, he added.

Conversion of the meter-gauge section of Lumding division in Assam started in October last year.

Movement of foodgrains to Mizoram, Tripura, south Assam and Manipur takes place through the Barak valley. Silchar is the main city of the valley. The railway line is broad gauge from Assam’s main city of Guwahati up to Lumding (in southern Assam).

From Lumding, to Tripura’s capital Agartala and western Manipur, Mizoram and southern Assam, the railway link is single-line meter gauge, constructed 110-112 years ago.

The 437-km long Lumding-Agartala metre-gauge line, part of which is in Assam and the remaining in Tripura, is being converted into broad gauge in two phases. It connects Bairabi in northern Mizoram and Jiribam in western Manipur with the rest of the country. The first phase of the project comprises gauge conversion in the Silchar-Lumding Section.

NFR launches 2 rail Apps for Women Safety & Information

Guwahati (GWH): The Northeast Frontier Railway will soon launch a smart phone-based application system, R-Mitra, to ensure women’s safety and another application system for assistance of passengers.

N.F.Railway General Manager R.K.Gupta said here that R-Mitra (Railway Mobile Internet Tracking Response and Assistance) that was introduced by Eastern Railway last month would be available for NF Railway soon. If a woman faces danger or harassment she can send a picture, SMS or alert message for assistance by pressing a button with the help of the app.

R.K. Gupta addresses a news conference in Guwahati on Monday
R.K. Gupta addresses a news conference in Guwahati on Monday

The other app, Railway Interactive Security Solution for Travellers Assistance, will help passengers to know the upcoming stations and the direction of the train. This is expected to give respite to passengers who usually do not have a clue about their location when travelling in a train, especially at night, and about the arrival time.

Gupta said this while announcing the new railway timetable, which will be effective from October 1.

As a practice, the time table is prepared once a year to adjust the timings of new and old trains, introduce new trains on newly commissioned lines and provide additional stoppages.

Gupta said for clearance of the extra rush during Durga Puja, NF Railway will run six additional long-distance trains and add 13 coaches to eight long-distance trains.

He said they would make documentaries and show it to passengers to spread awareness on the menace of drugging and theft. NF Railway has already launched a toll-free security helpline number (182) to provide immediate assistance to passengers.

“We have formed anti-drugging teams both at the divisional and at the headquarters level. They have been pressed into action in vulnerable sections and plagued trains. So far 21 drugging criminals have been apprehended by the Railway Protection Force and handed over to the Government Railway Police,” he added.

Gupta said the new Lumding-Silchar broad gauge line is likely to be opened in the first week of November. At present goods trains are being run on the stretch.

“Because of heavy rainfall we have to be extra careful to open the line for passenger services. After monsoon, hopefully in the first week of November, we will be able to run passenger trains,” he said.

Gauge Conversion works on Badarpur-Kumarghat-Agartala section – NFR stops train movement

Guwahati (GWH): Running of passenger and goods trains in Badarpur-Kumarghat-Agartala section will be stopped from September 20 to facilitate faster conversion of existing meter gauge track to a broad gauge one.  North East Frontier Railway Chief Public Relations Officer P.J.Sharma today said a ‘mega block’ will be taken up in the section, excluding Badarpur railway station from October 1 next to facilitate faster gauge conversion. Train number 05263 Agartala-Karimganj passenger special and 05264 Karimganj-Agartala passenger special will stop running from September 20, Sharma said. The ‘mega block’ has been granted for six months till March 31 next to complete the entire conversion work of the Badarpur-Kumarghat-Agartala section, he said. After that Agartala will be connected by broad gauge track to the rest of the country, the spokesman added.

NFR to remove unmanned railway crossings by 2020

Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) will eliminate all Unmanned Level Crossings in the zone by 2020. “We are closing down un-manned level crossings step by step. Our target is to ensure that not even a single un-manned level crossing remains in the NFR zone by 2020,” a senior official of the Indian Railways told.

He said the railway authorities have taken the issue of un-manned level crossings seriously across the country, including the NFR zone which comprises the north-eastern region, as well as Sikkim, parts of Bihar and parts of West Bengal. As per latest official data, there were a total of 1,824 railway level crossings in the zone at the beginning of the current fiscal. Of them, 1,155 were manned level crossings and the remaining 669 were un-manned level crossings.

In the Rangiya Division, of the 397 railway crossings, 289 were manned and 108 were un-manned as on April 1. In Tinsukia Division, there were 251 crossings, of which 189 were manned and 62 were un-manned.

In the Lumding Division, there were 271 railway level crossings as on April 1. Of these, 180 were manned and 91 were unmanned. NFR also has two other divisions at Alipurduar and Katihar.

“This fiscal, work is continuing to close down some more unmanned level crossings or to convert them to manned ones,” said the official.

Meanwhile, NFR authorities said that in the greater Guwahati area there is not even a single unmanned authorised railway crossing.

“However, people tend to cross the tracks at some crossings which are unauthorised. This is very dangerous and can cause serious accidents. Already, many accidents have happened in Guwahati in recent months due to use of such unauthorised crossings by citizens,” NFR Public Relations Officer Nripen Bhattacharya said.

He added, “Use of such unauthorised crossings is trespassing in railway property and liable for punishment under the laws. Railway authorities will not be responsible for any accidents which may occur while crossing the tracks at unauthorised locations.”

He said similar accidents have occurred in other parts of Assam and rest of the NFR zone, especially in the stretch between Dibrugarh and Tinsukia, where the main rail track and the national highway run parallel to each another.

“People should use only the manned level crossings and the road underbridges (RUB) and road overbridges (ROB). There are four RUBs in greater Guwahati area – Adabari, Maligaon, Kamakhya Gate and Bhootnath. Besides, six ROBs are located in the city at Maligaon, Lakhtokia, near Nehru Stadium, AT Road, Chandmari and Noonmati,” Bhattacharya said.

Technical experts said that trains generally tend to run at high speeds and even when a pilot applies the brakes the train continues to run for at least three hundred metres while it slows down and comes to a halt.

“Under such circumstances, people should exercise extreme caution. Nowadays, people tend to use the mobile even while crossing the rail tracks, at times they sit on tracks, and at level crossings car drivers continue to drive even when electronic barriers start closing. Such behaviour is dangerous,” said an official.

NFR has intensified its campaign to raise awareness about maintaining safety and following proper rules while crossing rail tracks, including by means of advertisements in the media, the official said.

DoNER Ministry likely to invest Rs.55 Crore for Itanagar and Naharlagun infrastructure upgradation

Naharlagun Rly StnNew Delhi: Union Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) is likely to invest Rs.55 crore for infrastructure upgradation of Itanagar and Naharlagun. Two major infrastructure projects, construction of RCC bridge over river Pachin connecting ISBT and Naharlagun Railway Station (Rs 30 crore) and construction of bypass roads in the Capital complex Phase I (Rs 25 crore), have been accepted by the Ministry, an official report said here today. The detailed project reports of these projects have been forwarded by DoNER to Water and Power Consultancy Services (WAPCOS) for technical vetting and verification for early sanction, the report said. Chief Secretary Ramesh Negi spoke to WAPCOS Chairman R K Gupta and requested him to clear technical vetting of the projects and recommend them to the DoNER, it added.

DoNER has chalked out a master plan for development of railway infrastructure in the North Eastern Region of India.  Download Master Plan here: NE Region Railway Master Plan

FCI plans Advanced Movement of Foodgrains by Rail to the Northeast

fci railwaysNew Delhi: The FCI is planning to move foodgrains to the northeast in advance by rail from Punjab and Haryana to create a buffer stock, parliament was informed on Tuesday.

“In order to ensure smooth supply of foodgrains under the TPDS (Targeted Public Distribution System) and other schemes of the government as well as to maintain buffer stocks in the northeast, Food Corporation of India plans movement of foodgrains in advance from Punjab and Haryana to different parts of the northeast by rail,” Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswam told Lok Sabha.

He said certain operational constraints such as inclement topography, landslides due to rain, frequent bandhs and strikes, unforeseen circumstances due to law and order problems and natural calamities sometimes affect movement of foodgrains in the northeast.

“As there is limited rail network in the northeast, FCI inducts stocks from railheads and railhead depots to all FCI depots in the region to ensure smooth supply of foodgrains,” he said.

Paswan said there have been complaints about irregularities in the functioning of the TPDS, including leakage and diversion of foodgrains, and foodgrains not reaching the beneficiaries, in some states, including the northeast.

FCI Sidings on NFR ZoneStating that TDPS was operated under the joint responsibility of the central and the state governments, Paswan said that as and when complaints are received by the government from individuals and organisations as well as through media reports, these are referred to the state governments concerned for inquiry and appropriate action.

He said 25 complaints have been received from the northeast till June this year.

“Further, the government and FCI continuously monitor the inter-state foodgrains movement to ensure availability of foodgrains in the region,” the minister said.

“A joint coordination mechanism between Railways, FCI and Department of Food and Public Distribution has been set up to monitor rail movement on weekly/monthly basis.”
Paswan said coordination committees have also been set up at regional and zonal levels to monitor foodgrains movement.

“During 2014-15, movement of foodgrains to the northeast increased by 13 percent as compared to previous year,” he said.