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.

Nepal Investment Board wants to construct two Railway lines in Kathmandu by 2021

KHATMANDU: The Investment Board Nepal, after conducting a feasibility study on the construction of railways in Kathmandu, has suggested that two railways be constructed in the Valley within next four years.

Its implementation, however, is under question as no preparations have been made for it.

The Board has also estimated that constructing the two routes will cost Rs 316 billion.

Earlier, the Board had formed a high-level committee for the feasibility study. The committee had National Planning Commission’s Hirendra Man Pradhan, Board’s Madhu Sudan Bhetwal, Ministry of Finance’s Baikuntha Aryal, Ministry of Transport Management’s Ananta Acharya and Department of Railway’s Bishnu Om Bade as members.

The Board’s spokesperson Uttam Bhakta Wagle says the first proposed route stretches from Naagdhunga of Kathmandu to Dhulikhel of Kavre. It will be 54 kilometres.

Likewise, the second proposed route connects Budhanilakantha of Kathmandu to the beginning point of Kathmandu-Tarai fast track in Lalitpur. It will be 25 kilometres.

The Board says the first route should be prioritised.

Detailed project reports are yet to be prepared for both the routes. It is said that 35 megawatt power is needed to operate each of the systems.

Around four million people commute in the valley everyday. Transport engineers say other means except the railway cannot bear the pressure of passengers if a city has more than three million regular commuters.

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Khulna-Kolkata Railway Service launched – Modi, Hasina inaugurate Bandhan Express Rail service

The train would start ferrying passengers from November 16. It would leave Kolkata at 11 am (Indian time) and reach Khulna after four-and-a-half hours.

NEW DELHI: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina will jointly launch a cross-country passenger train service today.

The Khulna-Kolkata train service opens two bridges on railway routes connecting Dhaka with Sylhet and Chittagong.

Bangladesh government officials said the two premiers would inaugurate the projects through a video conferencing from New Delhi and Dhaka. They would also launch an ‘end-to-end’ immigration facility to ease Dhaka-Kolkata Maitree train services.

Railway officials said the two new bridges have been built on the Bhairab and Titas rivers for the second track for simultaneous operation of up and down train services from Dhaka to Chittagong and Sylhet.

“We will call the new structures as the second Bhairab Bridge and second Titas bridge,” a railway official familiar with the process said.

The train, which will operate on the 117-km-long Khulna-Kolkata route, would be dubbed as ‘Bandhan Express’.

It would start ferrying passengers from November 16 and according to the schedule, it would leave Kolkata at 11 am (Indian time) and reach Khulna after four-and-a-half hours.

The 984-meter long and 7-metre wide Bhairab Railway Bridge was built at a cost of 567 crore Taka. Its construction work began on December 25, 2013 and ended last month.

Under an agreement with Bangladesh government, India’s Ircon-Afcons JV constructed the bridge having both dual gauge and broad-gauge facilities.

The new Titas Bridge is 218-metre long and 7-metre wide and was built at a cost of 161.36 crore Taka by another Indian company called Gannon-Flcl Consortium under a nearly identical agreement with the government.

The construction work of the second Titas Bridge started on January 27, 2014 and ended last month.

Bangladesh Railway’s eastern zone general manager and project director of the two bridges Md Abdul Hai told media that the up train from Dhaka would move through one bridge, while the down one would use the other bridge. The trains connecting Dhaka with the major two cities could ply without any crossing at Bhairab and Akhaura stations.

“The bridges will reduce travel time between Dhaka and Chittagong and Dhaka and Sylhet. We will be able to run the dual gauge and broad gauge trains at 100-km and 120-km per hour respectively,” the official said.

Hai said Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) of Bangladesh had approved the initiative on November 9, 2010 to smoothen the Dhaka-Chittagong double line train services.

The British era train service on the route was suspended in 1965 when Indian and Pakistan was in a war with Bangladesh was eastern wing of Pakistan. Bangladesh fought a war six year later and liberated from Pakistan in 1971.

The resumption of the train connection was among the 22 agreements Bangladesh and Indian signed in April this year to improve people-to people contact between the two next-door neighbours.

Bangladesh and India has earlier launched a number of bus and train services.

On Thursday, Hasina and Modi also inaugurated two new railway bridges over the rivers Bhairab and Titas in north-eastern Bangladesh. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was connected through video conferencing at the flag-off event in Kolkata.

This train service is a dream come true for people on both sides of the border, said Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

“We want to cooperate with India and other countries in the immediate neighbourhood for creating an area of peace in South Asia,” she said.

Bangladesh values such engagements so “we can live as good neighbours and pursue constructive policies for the benefit of our people”.

Indian Prime Minister Modi said, India takes pride in being a reliable partner in Bangladesh’s development.

He said development and connectivity are linked with each other and the ties between India and Bangladesh, particularly between West Bengal and Bangladesh, are decades old.

Chinese team in Nepal for talks on $4 billion Rail lines

KHATMANDU: A high-level Chinese team arrived in Kathmandu on Monday for talks with Nepalese authorities on the possibility of extending proposed cross-border railway links, part of efforts to expand connectivity with Nepal.

A Chinese firm has conducted a feasibility study for cross-border railway lines that will link Kerung or Gyirong in the Tibet Autonomous Region to Kathmandu, Pokhara and Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha near the border with India.

China’s efforts to build railway links to Nepal are part of its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a flagship project being pushed by President Xi Jinping.

“After holding talks, the Nepali and Chinese teams will leave for a field visit to the border near Keyrung on Tuesday,” said a Nepalese official who participated in the talks.

A vice minister from China’s National Railway Administration is leading the 23-member Chinese delegation.

Transport infrastructure at Kerung was recently upgraded by the Chinese in order to make inroads into South Asia through Nepal under the BRI.

The feasibility study carried out by the Chinese firm in 2016, which was accessed by Hindustan Times, states that three railway lines will be built between China and Nepal. The total investment is estimated to be around $4 billion.

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Bangladesh announce Dhaka-Chittagong Highspeed Rail link likely by 2022

Bangladesh will get its first high-speed rail link between Dhaka and Chittagong cities by 2022. The proposed route for the rail link will bring the distance down from 320km to 200km, which will take only one and a half hours to traverse.

DHAKA: The government has given the green light to a new high-speed rail link between Dhaka and Chittagong which should cut journey times between the country’s largest two cities by over five hours by 2022.

The existing Dhaka-Chittagong rail link runs for 320km through Tongi, Bhairab, Akhaura, Comilla and Feni, with journey times ranging from 7-10 hours.

The high-speed train, however, will run on a special track to be laid through Narayanganj, Comilla, Laksham and Feni, cutting the travel distance by over a third to 200km.

“The high-speed train will be able to take the passengers to Chittagong from Dhaka in one-and-a-half hours,” Railways Secretary Mofazzel Hossain told on Tuesday. “The service will be more comfortable and time-saving.”

The project will be implemented under a government-to-government (G2G) agreement with China at an estimated cost of Tk50,000 crore, said Kazi Rafiqul Alam, additional director general (infrastructure) of the Bangladesh Railway.

“This high-speed train project is important as it will mobilise trade and tourism,” he told.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina first came up with the idea of constructing a high-speed rail link during a visit to the Ministry of Railways on October 24, 2014.

A total of 21 foreign firms have submitted proposals to conduct the feasibility study for the project, following a tender issued by Bangladesh Railway (BR).

These are now being scrutinised by the Ministry of Railways and the Economic Relations Division (ERD) before five or six companies are shortlisted soon, said a senior official at the ministry.

The tentative deadline for completion of the feasibility study has been set as December 2018. The costs of the feasibility study and consultancy are estimated to be around Tk100 crore and Tk36 crore, respectively.

Dozens of new bridges – including two large spans of the Shitalakkhya and Meghna rivers – will be constructed for the rail link.

The Dhaka-Narayanganj part of the route will be constructed beside the existing rail line, while the section from Narayanganj to Comilla’s Daudkandi upazila will be constructed as an elevated railway.

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India to do away with multiple immigration checks on Kolkata-Dhaka train

Checks will continue only while boarding and deboarding a train at Dhaka Cantonment and Kolkata stations

KOLKATA: Immigration and custom checks at border points for passengers of Dhaka-Kolkata Maitree Express will soon be done away with, ending a major inconvenience, senior railway officials of India and Bangladesh said.

Just like in international flights, checks will continue only while boarding and deboarding a train at Dhaka Cantonment and Kolkata stations, reducing the journey time from around nine hours to around six-seven hours.

The Indian and Bangladesh governments have finally decided to end two rigorous and time-consuming immigration checks at Darshona (Bangladesh side) and at Gede (Indian side), conceding a major demand of passengers from both sides, the officials said.

Passengers had to deboard along with their luggage at these two points for checks, which took anywhere between two to three hours.

Officials added that the passengers will not be able to deboard the train anytime during the journey.

The end-to-end immigration check is likely to be launched by the prime ministers of the two countries this November, the officials said.

“The checks will now be done at Kolkata and Dhaka. It will solve a lot of issues that passengers have while dealing with such checks which cause delay as well,” Md Habibur Rahman, Assisting Director General (Operations) of Bangladesh Railway, told PTI, adding the new system will be officially launched next month.

Officials in Indian Railways told PTI that while there will be no checks at Darshona and Gede anymore, the train will halt for technical checks by security forces of either country at these stations.

During the halts when the train’s under carriage will be checked, officials said, the passenger coaches will be under lock and key, thus restricting any passenger movement.

Currently, India and Bangladesh have four operational rail links between West Bengal and Western Bangladesh. These are Petrapole-Benapole, Gede-Darshana, Radhikapur-Biral and Singhabad-Rohanpur.

Indian officials say that efforts are being made to operationalise two more rail connections by next year to take the number of rail links between the two countries to six, as in pre-1965 era.

Indian Railway has already listed its upcoming links – Haldibari in Northern West Bengal to Chilahati in Bangladesh and Shahbazpur in eastern Bangladesh with Mahisasan in Assam.

Three more rail connections are proposed between the two nations – between Panchagarh in North-Western Bangladesh and Siliguri, Agartala-Akhaura link which will connect West Bengal and Tripura through Bangladesh and the line connecting southern Tripura’s border town Belonia to Chittagong international sea port in (southeast) Bangladesh.

“This is a great victory for both Indian and Bangladesh railways. If this works out successfully, then we are planning to run these trains at night, just like in Europe,” said a railway official in India.

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India and Bangladesh to restore snapped Railway Lines: Mujibal Haque

DHAKA: Bangladesh Railway Minister Mujibal Haque said an initiative has been taken to reconnect railway lines with India in 12 places, which were snapped after partition of the country in 1947.

“We want to restore all the railway lines which existed before the partition of India. Now the initiative is on to restore rail connectivity in twelve places between Bangladesh and India. Both the governments are cooperating with each other in this regard,” he told reporters here last evening.

Haque was in the capital to attend a conference of Rotary Clubs of both the countries. Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar inaugurated the conference.

The Bangladesh minister said the second rail bridge on the Titas and the Bhoirab rivers in Brahmanbaria district of his country was completed with funding from India, and that it would be inaugurated soon.

Apart from the ‘Moitree Express’ which runs between Dhaka and Kolkata, he said another train ‘Bandhan Express’ to run between Khulna in Bangladesh and Kolkata, was likely to be launched next month.

“There is also a proposal from Bangladesh side to launch a train to connect Rajshahi in Bangladesh and Kolkata,” he said.

Haque noted that the progress of the 15-km long ongoing Agartala-Akhaura project was satisfactory and land acquisition for the purpose in Bangladesh side was complete.

Land acquisition for the project in Indian side has also been completed, West Tripura District Magistrate and Collector, Milind Ramteke told reporters earlier.

The central government has released Rs 97.63 crore to acquire the land, he said.

The process of laying railway tracks to connect Agartala with Akhaura in Bangladesh would be completed next year, Haque said.

Out of the 15-km track, five km would be on Indian side and the rest in Bangladesh.

Ramteke stated that the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) was the nodal agency for implementation of the project in Indian side.

Former railway minister Suresh Prabhu and Haque had jointly laid the foundation stone of the project here on July 31 last.

A flyover of 3.7 km will be constructed on the Indian side to save cultivable lands and the entire project cost will be borne by the central government.

New Delhi is keen to establish the rail link as it will connect West Bengal and Tripura through Bangladesh.

The 1,700 km distance between Agartala and Kolkata, which goes through the chicken neck in Siliguri, would be reduced to 350 km if passengers could move through Bangladesh, officials said.

Railway line connecting India, Nepal to become functional from Next Year

NEW DELHI/KHATMANDU: After remaining non-functional for the last three years the Janakpur-Jayanagar Railway line connecting Nepal and India is expected to become functional by 2018.It is the only railway line that once used to link India with Nepal but after 2014 its service got discontinued.

However, now both the neighboring countries are making an attempt to revive this railway service.”Talking about the progress, we are inching towards the completion. It will come under operation from the Biwaha Panchami,” Mukesh Kumar Yadav, Site Supervisor of the Janakpur- Jayanagar Railway told.

“The task of ground work has been completed, the work of the culvert is almost complete and the bridge is also in its final stage of completion,” he added.

The project will be completed in three phases and is estimated to cost 5.48 billion Indian rupees, mostly aided by the Indian Government.

“It is a matter of happiness for us, it will be good for the people as they come here and go there. People from there (India) comes here and people from here go there (India). It would be good for the people in the Janakpur, the poor ones,” Mithilesh Yadav a local residing near the railway construction site said.

As the train service over the countries got stalled from 2014 the trade through this point was shifted to other border point and with the revival of the rail way the economy of the place is expected to rise along with the slash in the time consumption for the travelling to capital Kathmandu.

The railway line which will have its track expanded to Bardibas of Mahottari district, will reduce the time duration to reach the place by less than an hour.

The Nayak Infrastructure of Assam, India has been awarded with the contract to lay down the 24 km track between the Irarwa (India) to Kaipleshwor of Janakpur.

Likewise, the Raman Construction of Janakpur is constructing the 25km segment between Kapileshwor and Bijalpur of Mahottari.

Bangladesh Railways inks pact with Indonesian rolling stock supplier PT Inka for 200 Coaches

DHAKA: Bangladesh Railways (BR) signed a Taka 5.79bn ($US 71m) contract with Indonesian rolling stock supplier PT Inka in Dhaka on September 14 for 200 metre-gauge coaches.

Delivery of the stainless-steel-bodied air-conditioned coaches will begin within 20 months and the final vehicles will arrive in Bangladesh within 33 months.

The order is being funded by the Bangladeshi government and the Asian Development Bank.

In April BR awarded PT Inka a contract to supply 50 metre-gauge coaches.

PT Inka has already supplied 100 metre-gauge and 50 broad-gauge coaches to BR under a contract signed in April 2016.

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Railways maintained little impact on Goods bound for Nepal on alternative rail routes

How Indian Railways kept supply line to Nepal alive even in the face of devastating floods

KOLKATA: One of worst instances of flooding in the region — areas in Bihar and Bengal abutting Nepal — has caused unprecedented damage to the road and rail infrastructure catering to border trade.

But this had little impact on goods bound for Nepal as the Indian Railways was quick to open alternative rail routes to cater to bilateral trade and Nepal’s third-country imports through Kolkata and Vizag ports. Credit should also go to people of Bihar for allowing rail authorities to restrict passenger train services so as to make way for goods movement.

“Goods operations were closed for only three days during August 17-19,” said Vishnu Chaudhary, CEO of CONCOR-run joint venture Himalayan Terminal (HTPL) at Nepal’s Birgunj, which borders the North Bihar town of Raxaul.

Chaudhary said the key Darbhanga-Sitamari-Raxaul rail link had snapped on August 13 and restoration is taking time as the alignment of some key bridges were affected.

Railways has managed the situation by diverting traffic through Sugauli. Passenger train services on the Muzaffarpur-Raxaul route was reduced from four to two, to create a six-hour dedicated window for goods movement to Nepal.

The results are visible. In July, the terminal handled 2,250 TEU (twenty feet equivalent unit) of containerised third-country cargo. In August, in spite of the devastating flood, 2,080 TEUs were unloaded.

Supply of steel, fertiliser, cement from India also went on full steam. In July, the terminal handled 31 rakes, each loaded with 2,500 tonne of steel cargo. The traffic was 25 rakes in August.

“The operations were challenging due to limited window for rake unloading,” Chaudhary reminded.

It means his team had to unload faster than the normal average of 2.2 rakes a day, failing which the entire traffic would be chocked. HTPL ended up unloading up to five rakes a day in August.

Chaudhary expects overall Nepal trade to gain momentum in the coming months, particularly with the restoration of road connectivity. Road movement is still slow. The 30-km link between Sugauli and Raxaul needs urgent repair.

Vizag cargo rising

Meanwhile, Nepalese importers are showing increasing interest to source third-country cargo through the Vizag sea port. While cargo activity stood at 50 TEUs in June, the monthly average rose to 78 TEUs in August.

According to Chaudhary, it may increase to 180 TEUs in September as two fully-loaded rakes (with 90 TEUs each) are about to depart from Vizag.

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

Pakistan Railways adds 55 US Made Locomotives to its fleet

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Railway has announced that the US-made 55 computerised locomotives, with 4,000 horsepower, have become part of fleet of Pakistan Railways locomotives.

Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique congratulated Pakistan Railways CEO Javed Anwar, AGM Mechanical Nasarullah Babar, administration and employees on this occasion and said that these up-to-date engines are earning hands of Pakistan Railways, said a press release issued here on Thursday.

The minister further said that in second phase 20 special engines will be bought for passenger train in Bolan section. They will help in accumulating profit of emerging contemporary Pakistan Railways, he said. This national organisation will serve industrial and business sector in a better way and will play its role in improving the country’s economy, he said.

Saad said that procurement of dynamics brake engines for mountainous areas will be completed in the end of next year. He said that Pakistan Railways very much understands the requirements of locomotives in future and in this concern proper planning has been done.

For fulfilling the requirements of modern engines till 2025, PC-I for procurement of 300 engines has been sent to the Planning Commission. He said that after World War-II, for the first time revolutionary changes have been brought in Pakistan Railways. The foundation for modern railways has been laid down, he added.

Bangladesh Rail Ministry sends Tk 17B proposal to Planning Commission for boosting Indo-Bangla Rail connectivity

DHAKA: The Railways Ministry has planned to convert the Parbatipur-Kownia railway track into a dual gauge one with Indian 2nd Line of Credit (LoC) to boost connectivity between Bangladesh and India.

The ministry has sent a draft project proposal titled ‘Converting Parbatipur-Kownia railway track of Bangladesh Railway into dual gauge’ to the Planning Commission with an estimated cost of Tk 17.25 billion (1,725.57 crore).

The Bangladesh Railway will implement the proposed project by June 2022, said an official at the Planning Commission. Of the total project cost, the official said, the Indian government will provide Tk 14 billion from its Line of Credit while the rest of Tk 3.25 billion will come from the state exchequer.

According to the 7th Five Year Plan, the government is planning to set up a 1,110-km dual gauge railway double track as both Bangladesh and India have put emphasis on boosting connectivity through railway network to enhance travel of passengers and transportation of goods.

Talking to the news agency, another official at the Ministry of Railways said the Parbatipur-Kownia railway track was last renovated during 1987-1992 period. But, due to lack of renovation over the years, the slippers and other infrastructure of the track became dilapidated for which inter-city and other trains cannot use this route at their desired speed.

Once the project is completed, the official said, it will help increase the travel of commuters and transportation of goods alongside increasing facilities for trans-border railway traffic through bringing this route under broad gauge network.

The official said the Pre-Evaluation Committee (PEC) meeting on the project was held recently and the project will be soon placed before ECNEC for its consideration.

The Railway Ministry official said that the main project operations include converting some 66.89 kilometres of railway track into dual gauge one at Parbatipur in Dinajpur, Rangpur district headquarters, Badarganj and Kawnia upazilas with an estimated cost of Tk 7.86 billion. Out of this 66.89 kilometres of track, there will be 57 kilometres main track and 9.89 kilometres of loop line.

The other project operations include conducting some 352-metre bridge works at Tk 3.45 billion, signaling works at Tk 933 million, office equipment procurement at Tk 2.0 million, procuring tamping station and P-way equipment at Tk 1.5 million alongside the construction of four station buildings, seven platforms, four platform-shed extension, and seven station approach road construction.

The project is included in the list of unapproved new project in the Annual Development Programme (ADP) of the current fiscal year, subject to availability of foreign funds.

Helped by the Rivalry between its two powerful neighbours, Nepal revives its Railway Network

Nepal is building a new railway network to boost its ailing economy—helped by the rivalry between its powerful neighbours, China and India. The Railway line to India was a lifeline for the southern frontier town of Janakpur, used to import everything from sweets to clothes and cosmetics and fueling a vibrant border economy.
Some years ago Nepal’s last working narrow gauge railway was dieselised with locomotives supplied by India. However, for economical reasons they kept one steam locomotive serviceable. In 2005 steam operation to this railway was re-introduced for four days. As the daily trains are nearly always overcrowded, special charter passenger trains would appear as only ghost trains.

KHATMANDU/JANAKPUR: Three years after its last train hit the buffers, landlocked Nepal is building a new railway network to boost its ailing economy—helped by the rivalry between its powerful neighbours, China and India.

The railway line to India was a lifeline for the small southern frontier town of Janakpur, used to import everything from sweets to clothes and cosmetics and fuelling a vibrant border economy. The Janakpur Railway was a 762 mm gauge line which connects Jaynagar in India with the pilgrim centre in Janakpur. The big temple here is an interesting site and an important place of pilgrimage. As there is no parallel road the railway is still the only way to get there from Jaynagar. The line is flat and runs almost dead straight towards the north-west to Janakpur. As the lowlands to the foot of the Himalayan mountains see floods every monsoon season, there are many bridges along the line.

But it fell into disrepair after years of neglect and since 2014 the train has sat stationary, its rusting carcass now a playground for local children, while Janakpur’s markets are empty.

Rafid Kabadi, 49, had been driving trains on Nepal’s Janakpur line for 25 years before it was shut down in 2014.

“When the train was running, we would have a lot of business. I was easily providing (for) my family,” said Shyam Sah, whose small family-run cosmetics shop has suffered an 80% drop in profits since the railway closed. Now it is being rebuilt with Indian backing, one of three new rail lines—one funded by China in the north and a third by Nepal itself— that the country hopes will help boost international trade.

Nepal remains largely isolated from the global economy, dependent on aid and remittances. Growth slowed dramatically after a 2015 earthquake but is expected to normalise at 5% from 2018—one of the slowest rates in South Asia—according to the World Bank.

Locals were the first one on scene when the train broke down. Now the workshop and the machines have been deserted.

The historic Janakpur railway running between Nepal and India was once a major border crossing for citizens on both sides. The British built the 20-mile track in 1937 to carry timber from the once heavily forested areas of Janakpur to the Indian city of Jainagar, but as supply dwindled, the train’s main cargo became people.

Tourists and pilgrims boarded the train in India to get to the historic temples of Janakpur, considered the birthplace of the Hindu god Sita. And costing just a few rupees, Nepalese villagers needed it to find work in India and beyond, or to smuggle goods back to their hometowns to sell. Until it shut down in 2014, men, women, and even children would fill the carriages daily, and when room ran out, they’d sit on the roof or hang from the sides.

These days the villagers in Janakpur who can afford it have to travel by bus—which can cost three times more—to cross the border while their station sits abandoned. A recent photo series from Reuters exposes the shrubs that have grown around a rusting train engine, the dilapidated carriages whose only visitors are children chasing each other, and the deserted workshops once used for repairing the train (which frequently broke down or derailed during its final years).

The line closed so that Nepal Railway Corporation, with financial help from Indian Railways, could upgrade the track from its colonial days. It’s a $100 million endeavor, and for the locals, it can seem like the railway line might never reopen as construction faces numerous setbacks and the deadlines go unmet. Not to mention that there are accusations of contractors misusing materials meant for the line on other projects.

Yet according to Reuters, the company claims to have completed 80 percent of the much-needed improvement, which includes laying new tracks, extending the line 43 miles to the north, and building 14 new stations along the route. Even if all goes according to plan, the line won’t open for business until at least March.

In recent years it has courted its two large neighbours for investment in an attempt to plug itself into a rail network that links the far eastern reaches of Asia with Europe. But geography is not on its side. The Himalayas form a natural border between Nepal and China, leaving it largely dependent on India—with which it shares a 1,400 kilometre open border—for the majority of its imports and exports.

In recent years Kathmandu has tilted towards Beijing as part of a nationalist drive to decrease the country’s reliance on New Delhi. China has responded, ramping up its diplomatic ties with Nepal—mostly through large-scale infrastructure investments.

In 2017, Beijing pledged $8.3 billion to build roads and hydropower plants in Nepal, dwarfing India’s commitments of $317 million. Feasibility studies are also underway for a Beijing- backed railway connecting Kathmandu to Lhasa in Tibet, cutting straight through the Himalayas at an estimated cost of $8 billion.

Ankit Panda, senior editor at The Diplomat magazine, said that could be a game-changer for the small country. “The rail line with China holds potential depending on the demand side of the equation, on how China allows Nepal to leverage that link for commercial growth opportunities,” he said.

But it has strained relations between India and China, who are currently locked in a tense standoff on a remote Himalayan plateau in Bhutan sparked by a new road being built by China. “China knows that its chequebook diplomacy with the smaller Asian states is a sore point with India, which simply cannot afford to put up the kind of capital outlays that the Chinese promise,” said Panda.

The project is part of its “One Belt, One Road” initiative, a massive global infrastructure programme to connect Chinese companies to new markets around the world that critics see as a geopolitical powerplay. Regional rival India has snubbed the plan and skipped a summit in Beijing in May.

New Delhi is funding the reconstruction of the Janakpur line, rebuilding the tracks to carry broad-gauge trains that will allow it to connect to the rest of the subcontinent’s expansive rail network. Meanwhile Nepal is building a 945-kilometre line that will cut across the southern plains from east to west. Nearly a third of the track has been built, but construction has stalled for lack of funds and it is not clear when it work will be finished.

Some experts warn that Nepal has become a de-facto battleground in a geopolitical struggle for regional supremacy between India and China—a position that Kathmandu must navigate carefully. “None of them (smaller Asian nations) want to become a de facto satellite state,” said Michael Auslin, Asia expert and fellow with the Hoover Institution.

“But by having both India and China essentially compete over it, from one perspective it makes it a battleground, from another perspective it means that Nepal is playing the two off against each other,” he added.

Meanwhile, the people of Janakpur are eagerly awaiting the rail revival that will connect them to India once again. “When the train stopped, everything finished. Business has gone down for all of the city,” said bookshop owner Rajendra Kusuwah. “After the new rail comes, it will open doors for development.”

Work for Sitamarhi-Janakpur Railway line on high steam

The Indian government has started paperwork for laying down railway track between Sitamarhi district of Bihar and Janakpurdham of Nepal.

According to a news report published in Indian newspaper Bhaskar News, the 45-kilometer track is being laid down to strengthen bilateral relation between the two countries. The project has been included in budget of the India’s Ministry of Railways for 2016/17.

The track will be 60 meters wide, according to the news report.
It is believed that the railway line between Sitamarhi and Janakpurdham will enhance relation between the two countries.

Indian government has taken needful steps to do away with problems that might occur while implementing the project. The railway line is expected to boost trade and business in both the cities.

The number of Indian tourists coming to Janakpur has come down as the Bhittamod-Jaleshwar-Janakpur, the only road between Sitamarhi and Janakpur, is in a bad condition. Earlier, thousands of Indian tourists used to visit Janakpur during festivals like Ram Nawami and Bibaha Panchami, among others. Once the railway links the two cities, the number of tourists to Janakpur is expected to increase significantly, bringing more income opportunities for locals and businesses.

Nepal and India share friendly relation since ancient times. The marriage between Indian prince Rama and Nepali princess Sita has made Janakpur a special place for Indians. Easy mode of transport is expected to facilitate movement of visitors between the two cities.

Locals of Mahottari have welcomed the Indian government decision to build railway line between Sitamarhi and Janakpurdham. Bajrang Nepali, a local leader of Nepali Congress, expressed his happiness at the initiative taken by the Indian government. “Janakpur could be the capital of Province No. 2. So, massive investment in infrastructure sector is needed,” he added.

He also said that the government should now take up the issue with India. “Though Indian has begun paperwork for the railway line, no route has been finalized yet. The two governments should sit together and finalize the route,” Nepali added.

Rail project to connect India and Bangladesh begins; land acquisition notices served to 257 families

AGARTALA: Land acquisition for the 15 km long Agartala-Akhaura rail project to link Indian Railways with Bangladesh Railways, has started, officials said on Sunday.

“We have served notices to 257 families to acquire 66 acres of land for the rail project and the land would be handed over to the railways by August end”, West Tripura District Magistrate and Collector Milind Ramteke told reporters.

He said, the Central government has already released Rs 97.63 crore to acquire the land.

The process of laying the 15 km long railway tracks to connect Agartala with Akhaura in Bangladesh will be completed in two and half years time after laying of tracks begin.

Out of the 15 km track, 5 km would be on Indian side and the rest in Bangladesh.

Ramteke said that the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) is the nodal agency for implementation of the project in Indian side.

Bangladesh government has also started acquiring around 70 acres of land for the project, NFR officials said.

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu and his Bangladesh counterpart, Majibul Haque had jointly laid the foundation stone here on 31 July 2016.

A flyover of 3.7 km would be constructed on the Indian side to save cultivable lands and the entire project cost would be borne by the government, he said.

New Delhi is keen to establish the rail link as it would connect West Bengal and Tripura through Bangladesh.

During Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to New Delhi, the two neighbours had agreed to lay the tracks between Akhaura and Agartala.

The Agartala-Akhaura railway route would connect Indian Railways with Bangladesh Railways which would improve connectivity and boost trade between the two countries.

The 1,700 km distance between Agartala and Kolkata which goes through the ‘chicken’s neck’ in Siliguri would be reduced by 350 km if passengers could move through Bangladesh, officials said.

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.

 

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.

Nepal revamps Janakpur (Nepal) – Jainagar (India) colonial-era rail link

KHATMANDU: Shrubs spring up around a rusted train engine in southeast Nepal, with carriages propped up on bricks and tall grass growing over abandoned wheels, offering mute testimony to years of neglect suffered by an abandoned railway line.

First built as a cargo line to carry wood from Nepal to India in 1937, it was once the lifeblood of the community in Janakpur, running 29 km (18 miles) from Jainagar in India’s neighbouring eastern state of Bihar. Jainagar-Janakpur line, which is a 53 km, 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) line from Jainagar (in India) to Janakpur (in Nepal). The Jainagar-Janakpur line is primarily used for passenger transport, while the Raxaul-Sirsiya line is primarily used for freight transport.

Jainagar Railway Station falls under the Samasthipur Division of East Central Railway in India.

The train service, which eventually became a cheap way for travellers to cross the international border, closed in January 2014 for a $100-million project to upgrade the colonial-era narrow rail track into a broad-gauge line.

Now the only sign of life is laughing children, who chase each other through the disintegrating carriages, climbing on rusting benches and tumbling over one another.

But the closure hit Janakpur hard, with close to 130 railway employees losing their jobs, said Tula Bahadur Dangi, acting general manager of Nepal Railway Corporation, who has worked for the company for 18 years.

Travellers have been forced to use buses instead, paying three times the price of a train ticket for a journey four times as long, which is complicated further during the monsoon rains that make the roads muddy.

Other trades dependent on the railway have also suffered.

“There is no business now, compared to when there was a train,” lamented Rajendra Kushwaha, who ran a bookstall at Janakpur railway station for 45 years.

The revamp of the railway, set to be completed next March, presents clear signs of renewal and the improvements to come.

Construction is nearly 80 percent complete, with bridges and a total of 14 stations built along the route, where land has been levelled for the laying of track to extend the line northwards a distance of 69 km (43 miles).

The expansion will create 350 jobs, Dangi said, complete with plans for a museum to showcase the old German-made abandoned carriages and engines.

The expanded route would also make it easier for tourists to visit the Ram Janaki temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site that devout Hindus believe to be the birthplace of the goddess Sita.

Completion can’t come quickly enough for Rafid Kabadi, who drove trains on the old line for 25 years, the third generation of his family in the job.

“I am sad the train stopped, but happy the new one is coming,” he said, standing before a rusted carriage with his grandson.

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.

Nepal in talks with China to build $8 billion cross-border Rail link

KHATMANDU: Nepal is in talks with China to build a cross-border rail link that may cost up to $8 billion, and funding could be expected after Nepal formally signed up to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative, a Nepali finance ministry official said on Sunday.

Yug Raj Pandey, an under secretary at Nepal’s Ministry of Finance, told Reuters the proposed 550 kilometre-long railway would connect China’s western Tibet region to Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu and will carry goods and passengers.

The Himalayan nation officially signed an agreement two days ago to be part of President Xi Jinping’s ambitious plan to build a new Silk Road, he said on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.

“Now we are a member of (the initiative) we can get some specific project assistance from China’s government. We expect it for the railway,” he said. “Once we connect by railway then we can increase our trade and invite more tourists to Nepal.”

Pandey said the two countries had been in discussions for the past five months about the project, which could cost $7-8 billion and take up to eight years to complete.

He said Nepal planned to start preparing a detailed project report for the railway, and that they had yet to decide how much funding they will seek from China.

The railway will travel over 400 kilometres in China to the Nepal border, and then about another 150 kilometres from the Nepali border to Kathmandu, he said.

“Our first priority is railway, and second will be hydropower projects and cross-border transmission lines between Nepal and China,” he said.

China last year agreed to consider building a railway into Nepal and to start a feasibility study for a free trade agreement with impoverished, landlocked Nepal, which has been trying to lessen its dependence on its other big neighbour India.

Pandey declined to comment about India’s opposition to parts of the Belt and Road initiative, in particular an economic corridor China is building in Pakistan.

China has touted what it formally calls the Belt and Road initiative as a new way to boost global development since Xi unveiled the plan in 2013, aiming to expand links between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond underpinned by billions of dollars in infrastructure investment.

With China as sole Financier, Pak refuses ADB Loan for Karachi-Peshawar Railway Line

KARACHI: After China said it wanted to fund the USD eight billion Karachi-Peshawar Railway Line project in Pakistan single-handedly, Islamabad has refused part financing from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). “China strongly argued that two-sourced financing would create problems and the project would suffer,” the Dawn quoted the Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal as saying at a news conference on Thursday. The minister, however, refused to comment whether the Railway Ministry has resisted the Chinese request for fears of monopoly, but said the entire financing would now come from China.

Pakistan and China are expected to sign a formal agreement in this regard next month. Ahsan Iqbal said the ADB would be accommodated in some other projects, such as those under the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation programme. Under the original plan, the ADB had to provide USD 3.5 bn for the 1,700-kilometre-long line, considered the backbone of the country’s logistics connecting two major ports with the rest of the country for transporting goods and passengers.

Land acquisition underway in Tripura for Indo-Bangla rail link

Acquisition in West Tripura for Agartala-Gangasagar (Bangladesh) Railway link is nearing completion! 

AGARTALA: Land acquisition is in its final stages and will continue for another 2 months before starting the construction work for the Indo-Bangla railway network from Tripura, officials said on Wednesday.

The West Tripura district administration has started land acquisition process for Agartala-Gangasagar (Bangladesh) railway link and it is likely to be completed over a period of two months, district Land Acquisition Officer PK Deb said.

The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has already released Rs 97 crore for land acquisition for the railway project connecting Agartala with Gangasagar (Bangladesh), NFR Deputy Chief Engineer BN Bhaskar said.

“Once the required land is provided to us, the NFR will undertake construction of railway track on elevated corridor within a month,” he said.

Bhaskar said that tracks would be on the elevated corridor between Agartala and Badharghat stations while lines would be laid on the ground from Charipara to Nischintpur, a border area of Sadar subdivision.

The track would be around 5 km long in India while 10 km railway track will be laid on Bangladesh side and IRCON, a Government of India undertaking, will execute the 10 km track as per the plan.

Maitree Express-II chugged across India, Bangladesh border amid cheers, applause

India-Bangladesh ties: Indian railways to restore Kolkata –Khulna passenger train service

PETRAPOLE, Sealdah Division: Nine years after the inauguration of the Maitree (friendship) Express passenger train service between Kolkata and Dhaka, the first Khulna-Kolkata train chugged in to the Petrapole Railway station On the India-Bangladesh border on Saturday.

This will be the second passenger service between the two countries. The first such service ‘Maitree Express’ was flagged off between Kolkata and Dhaka Cantonment stations in April 2008. After the passage of nine years, there is growing demand for more railway connections between Indian and Bangladesh.

Repeatedly sounding its hooter, the five-coach diesel-hauled Maitree Express-II stopped at the railway station on the Indian side of the border at about 1.40 pm to loud cheers and applause. On a trial run, it carried a 43-member Bangladesh delegation, who were warmly greeted and received with bouquets and garlands by Indian Railway officials.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his visiting Bangladesh counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, inaugurated the trial run through a video link from New Delhi.

Resplendent in green and saffron border on white base, the Maitree Express II set off from Khulna at 8.15 a.m. and entered India through Benapole from the Bangladesh side.

The 176-km journey includes 96 km on the Bangladesh side. Railway officials said the regular passenger train services are expected to begin from July.

“The services are expected to kick off from July this year from Kolkata to Khulna through Petrapole- Benapole (on the Bangladesh side). The fare and the frequency of the services are yet to be decided,” said Basudev Panda, Divisional Railway Manager, Sealdah, Eastern Railway.

On Saturday S N Agrawal, General Manager, Eastern & South Eastern Railways, Satish Kumar, Addl. General Manager, Eastern Railway, Basudev Panda, Divisional Railway Manager, Sealdah, Eastern Railway will be present at Petrapole (on the Indian side) to receive senior railway officials from Bangladesh.

Interestingly, much before an international border came up and political realignments changed the landscape of the two Bengals, regular passenger services connected Sealdah to Khulna and Jessore through the Petrapole-Benapole route.

Bangladesh Railway’s Chief Mechanical Engineer (West) Md. Iftikar Hossain said: “The train will have the air-conditioned and non air-conditioned compartments along with medical facilities. The fare will be at par with the fares of Maitree I. The number of air-conditioned and non ac and non air-conditioned compartments will depend on the number of passengers.”

“The Maitree I which runs twice a week has about 450 seats. We see on an average 80 per cent of seats are always booked,” Panda said.

Panda said the two countries would initiateAthe process of establishing immigration and customs facilities at the terminal destinations so that no change-over is required in between.

“The new passenger service will give a momemtum to collaboration between the two countries. People from the southern part of Bangladesh will benefit from the new service,” said Syed Salma Jafreen, Deputy Secretary, Bangladesh Ministry of Home Affairs.

Regular passenger services connected Sealdah to Khulna and Jessore through the route, much before the partition of India in 1947.

Passenger train services between the two countries were suspended after the 1965 war between India and Pakistan, when the territory now known as Bangladesh comprised the Pakistan’s eastern province.

East Pakistan later became independent Bangladesh in 1971.

Nearly 30 years after Bangladesh’s independence, the Indo-Bangla Petrapole-Benapole rail corridor was re-opened in January 2001 for goods traffic.

According to officials, these trains are now running on a regular basis.

On April 14, 2008, the passenger train service between Dhaka and Kolkata — the Maitree Express — was launched.

Conference on “Strengthening Rail Transport Connectivity in South & South West Asia” concludes with concrete plans

A two day meeting on “Strengthening Railway Transport Connectivity in South and South West Asia” organised by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in coordination with Organization for Cooperation between Railways (OSJD) and Ministry of Railways, Government of India in New Delhi on 15th–16th March 2017 concluded with concrete road map drawn by the participants.

Discussions were held to strengthen the rail transport and provide connectivity to the countries in South Asia and South East Asia. Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu, Minister of Railways Government of India, Representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Iran, India, Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Turkey and other countries were also present.

The meeting sought to review and identify innovative measures to strengthen cross-border railway transport within South and South-West Asia; which is one of the least connected and integrated sub regions in the world despite its vast contiguous landmass. Strengthening railway connectivity is central to boosting economic growth, enhancing trade and transport connectivity and improving lives in the sub region. The meeting brought together government officials and policy makers from nine countries in South Asia and South-West Asia and Central Asia, along with representatives from various international and regional organizations, railway and connectivity experts and academia, as well as the private sector.

Speaking on the occasion, Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu said “Connectivity and integration of trade gives huge growth, it is interesting to see how we can participate in this process. Physical connectivity is required for market integration and Railways can transport huge capacity as compared to other modes of transport. South Asia is most populous and when goods and services will grow, GDP will also grow in this region. Therefore, idea is to bring rail connectivity in South Asia which will be beneficial for the economy.

Our priority is to develop connectivity between Kathmandu and New Delhi, Kolkata & Kathmandu. We are exploring the connectivity between India, Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Connectivity between the countries in South Asia and South East Asia will be helpful for poverty alleviation and economy in this region. We require cooperation of the partner countries.

The international rail transport proposals of ESCAP under the Trans-Asian Railway network assumes special significant in this context. Of particular importance is the proposal of an Istanbul to Dhaka rail route, also known as the ITI-DKD rail corridor. India hosts an important segment of this rail route. The most important feature of this proposal is that while this main rail corridor traverses the length of Southern Asia, it offers multimodal linkages with neighbouring sub regions, particularly catering to the transit requirements of landlocked countries of our neighbourhood.”

Mr. Matthew Hammill, Officer in Charge, ESCAP South & South West Asia office (ESCAP-SSWA) in his opening remarks stressed on taking initiatives for operationalizing the Trans Asian Railway Network and how Indian Railways can contribute in this process in South Asia. During the session, the other speakers were Mohd Jamshed, Member Traffic, Railway Board, Government of India, Tadeusz Szozda, Chairman, Organisation for Co operation between Railways (OSJD) Committee.

The representatives from SAARC Secretariat, BIMSTEC, NITI Aayog (Government of India), CONCOR (Ministry of Railways, Government of India) also spoke on the occasion.

India takes lead to run freight train from Dhaka to Istanbul

Indian Railways cements whopping 6,000-km Bangladesh-India-Pakistan-Turkey trans-continental train run; demo soon. Codenamed the ITI-DKD-Y corridor, the container train’s route is scheduled as Dhaka-Kolkata-Delhi-Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul.

NEW DELHI: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu led Indian Railways is going to run a trans-continental container train full of goods from Dhaka to Istanbul, which would cover a 6,000-km journey across five countries – Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey.

Codenamed the ITI-DKD-Y corridor, the container train’s route is scheduled as Dhaka-Kolkata-Delhi-Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul. Eventually, Yangon will also be connected to Dhaka. The missing Tamu-Kalay link in Myanmar is still to be built.

Indian Railways has called South Asian railway heads involved in the project to work out the nitty-gritty at a high-level meeting on March 15-16. Pakistan railway chief Javed Anwar is also being invited. There is one issue with Pakistan that needs to be fixed. While Pakistan allows freight trains and passenger trains from Delhi to Lahore via Attari, it has historically cited security reasons to not allow movement of containers on this route. For the demonstration, Indian officials said, it will not be a problem as it is a one-off run.

What energized the project is that a long missing link of 150 km in Zahedan, in the Baluchestan province of Iran, has now been established, connecting the country to the Pakistan Railway network on the border. So the Trans-Asian Railway Southern Corridor, as it is formally named, under the aegis of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), is good to go all the way to Turkey after certain operational exchange of notes and coordination between the nations concerned, which India is anchoring this month.

“The demonstration run will happen very soon in 2017 and we will sort out all the issues with the countries concerned. It’s a great leap for South Asian regional connectivity in the rail sector. This will also demonstrate to the world that there can be a real, commercial trans-Asian container corridor of this magnitude in the rail sector,” Mohammad Jamshed, Railway Board Member (Traffic), told.

Currently, goods take a long, roundabout route from Ludhiana to Lahore which otherwise are just a few hours apart by rail. The March 15-16 meeting is aimed at discussing some common technical and operational parameters between the railway systems of the countries involved. So far, in communications between the railway systems, all countries have on paper endorsed the project and have said that the demonstration is technically feasible.

India, on its part, had already sent a high-level team of officers from the Railway ministry and Container Corporation of India late last year to Dhaka on a reconnaissance of the proposed route. It was found that the rail bridge over the Padma river cannot carry the load of heavy freight trains and allows only passenger operations. So it was agreed to keep the demonstration train relatively light, filling it preferably with a cargo of cotton garments.

Past the Dhaka border, there is the inland container depot in India which will service the rail cargo train on its way to Kolkata. From Kolkata to Delhi and then to Attari and Lahore will be smooth sail, officials said.

In January this year, China sent a container train from East China’s Yiwu all the way to London via Germany, covering a distance of 12,000 km and demonstrating that it can be cheaper, even faster mode of freight movement between the Asian giant and countries in Western Europe and all in between.

CPEC exploits Kashmir, creates no job avenues, industry for locals: claim locals

Even as Baloch, Sindhi activists hold anti-CPEC protest outside Chinese embassy in London, Kashmiris living in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir are also opposing the project, as Pakistan is forcing people to leave their homes. Both the countries are ignoring the environmental and social impacts in various regions too.

A sharp criticism and opposition is rising among Kashmiris in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) as Pakistan and China are constructing a multi-layered infrastructure project, which passes through Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a 51.5 billion dollar project that aims to connect Kashgar, in China’s western province of Xinjiang, with the port of Gwadar in the Pakistani province of Balochistan.

The road and rail network under the project traverses through Gilgit Baltistan.

While CPEC is being touted as a ‘game changer’ by the leaders, the people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan claim the project is another attempt to further make them slaves. The project brings no industry and fails to create jobs for the locals.

China will use CPEC to loot Gilgit Baltistan, POK and Balochistan and gain access to global market, says leading Pakistani daily ‘Express Tribune’. China using Pakistan to loot and plunder the people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan and simultaneously gain access to global markets, says Pakistan Daily.

Mohd. Ali Shafa, an academician and human rights activist in Gilgit said, “Our educated youth is roaming without any jobs. The SHO, Chief Secretary, IGP, SSP or any other good government post, people from Punjab have been appointed at all these places.”

“In the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), our people are not hired as they do not have any government backing. There is no one to raise our point at the assembly or in the senate. There are no jobs, no opportunities and no business,” said Shafa.

The CPEC enters Pakistan from China through the Karakoram Highway.

Though Gilgit Baltistan plays a key role in the CPEC project and all roads and pipelines crossing into China from Pakistan will run through this mountainous region, there are no plans for any special economic packages to support the people of Gilgit.

CPEC is actually designed by China, for China. It will use Pakistan as a pathway to increase its access to global markets. Local entrepreneurs do not stand a chance at competing with an economy-of-scale manufacturer like China. With CPEC, China can access all of Pakistan, resulting in Chinese goods becoming even cheaper. CPEC is a trade route. If trade routes can turn the tables for nations, Egypt would have been the world’s biggest power as it controls the Suez Canal which alone generates billions of dollars in revenue. The world is run by those who use that route – not by those who collect the toll tax,” a senior Pakistani energy sector analyst, Mr Abdullah Ansari.

As per BHRO report, approximately 3000 families displaced in Balochistan to make way for CPEC forcefully. The people have been forced to leave their homes in Hoshab, Awaran, Jhalawan and Koh-e-Suleman and move to Karachi, Turbat, Hub Chowki and other areas without any assurance on accommodation, education, health, income earning or even ex-gratia for the families vacated. A total of 850 people have been killed in Balochistan to make the way for CPEC in 2016 alone and 250 of these were unidentified bodies. In the same year, some 40000 people have been abducted by Pakistan Government agencies and have gone missing and BHRO has managed to collect details of only 1,809 of them.

The locals, as stakeholders in the project, have been demanding that the Pakistani government shares details of the project with them, failing which they would consider the project, being constructed through an area contested by India, as illegal.

Nasir Aziz Khan, spokesperson of United Kashmir People?s National Party (UKPNP), said, “Pakistan has allowed China to get access into the PoK and Gilgit Baltistan and is signing new pacts without the consultation of locals. The local population has not received any benefit. The CPEC has no mention of the PoK and Gilgit. All benefits will go to Pakistan and China and they will use the land of Kashmir and exploit its natural resources.”

As a largely remote area with a delicate eco-system, Gilgit has been grappling with the problem of ecological imbalance due to uncontrolled deforestation.

Now, with the CPEC project planning to upgrade the Karakoram highway and build a rail network in the region, there are concerns that the project will displace thousands of locals and render them homeless, and also disturb the fragile ecology of the region.

Water pollution, desertification, soil erosion, water logging and salinity, solid waste management and deforestation are some of the major environmental issues for Gilgit Baltistan in future because of CPEC. Industrial and Transportation pollution’ though not too high at the moment but may get worse if this project goes which is designed without any concrete sustainable developmental policies.
 
Air pollution is endemic because of a surge in automobiles, insufficient emission standards and in the absence of exective law enforcement in implementing with CPEC are also major cause of concerns.
Land degradation is a serious problem both in irrigated and barani areas due to excessive mining, erosion and deforestation.
The inability to address the situation in CPEC will result in extremely high costs in the future and it is therefore not a tenable project.
Without any environmental planning and progressive development of sustainable development in CPEC project, the result will be multiple on fragile ecosystems, rural life, livelihood and infrastructure, losses of species destruction, death of habitat, decrease pasture lands, animals life, growth of different kinds of diseases, droughts, heavy rain falls, heavy snow falls, lake outbursts, floods’ flash floods etc in future resulting in massive social imbalance and environmental impact in the Kashmir region.
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GE Locomotives to enhance Pakistan’s cargo capacity

KARACHI: US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale has said that many of General Electric (GE) locomotives being delivered to Pakistan Railways will support power plants and improve the rail company’s capacity to carry even more cargo to the industrial heartland.

“The delivery of these locomotives is also great news for US private sector’s engagement with Pakistan, enhancing the ties between our countries,” the ambassador said at a ceremony at the Karachi Cantonment Railway Station where he dedicated the GE locomotives on Friday.

US Consul General for Karachi Grace Shelton and Pakistan Railways Chairperson Parveen Agha were present on the occasion.

Hale highlighted how US technology and equipment would play a key role in the long-term infrastructure upgrades that would fuel Pakistan’s sustainable economic development.

“We are proud to support the government’s goals to strengthen and modernise Pakistan’s transportation infrastructure with the early delivery and commissioning of GE’s Evolution Series locomotives,” said Sarim Sheikh, President and CEO of GE Pakistan and Central Asia region.

“Evo locomotives provide better fuel efficiency and longer overhaul cycles than any other locomotives in their class, substantially reducing both the costs and environmental impact of transporting essential freight.”

A representative of Pakistan Railways noted that Pakistan was the first country in South Asia to import and use the GE Evolution Series locomotives, which would help with modernisation and connectivity of Pakistan Railways.

In June 2015, GE signed a deal with Pakistan Railways for the delivery of 55 state-of-the-art diesel locomotives. The 4,500 horsepower locomotives are fully built and assembled in the US.

They will be shipped to Karachi Port in several phases throughout 2017. First seven locomotives arrived two months ahead of the scheduled date at the port on January 23, 2017.

India keen on Rail Link connecting Kathmandu to Delhi, Kolkata to strengthen cross-border connectivity: Suresh Prabhu

KHATMANDU: India today said it was keen on linking Nepal’s capital with New Delhi and Kolkata through a railway network in a bid to strengthen cross-border connectivity amid China’s strategic push into the landlocked Himalayan nation.

“We need to build the railway tracks connecting Kathmandu with Delhi and Kolkata as soon as possible,” Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said.

“If we could build these two railway tracks soon it would increase Nepal’s connectivity with India,” Prabhu said while addressing the ‘Nepal Infrastructure Summit 2017’, which concluded in Kathmandu today.

“I will give priority to building such networks soon,” he said.

Prabhu’s remarks came amid China’s investment push into Nepal with rail and road connectivity through Tibet.

Noting that infrastructure was a prerequisite for attaining higher economic growth, Prabhu called the Nepal government and private sector to ramp up investment in construction of physical infrastructure.

“If you invest in infrastructure in a country with wide infrastructure gap, you will get good return on investment.

Also, economic growth triggered by infrastructural development will provide additional benefits to investors,” he said.

He added that India was ready to share its drone technology and experience with Nepal for monitoring the project.

According to experts, this move a counter to China’s bid to expand its rail network towards Lumbini via Kathmandu.

Prabhu held separate meetings with Nepal President Bidhya Devi Bhandari,Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Ramesh Lekhak, Civil Aviation, Culture and Tourism Minister Jiwan Bahadur Shahi and Energy Minister Janardan Sharma.

He also met Nepalese business leaders, political leaders, industry heads, with whom discussed a wide range of infrastructure development issues.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in Nepal to attend Nepal Infrastructure Summit 2017

Prabhu arrived here to attend the ‘Nepal Infrastructure Summit 2017’, organised by the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) in association with the Nepal government and Youth Community for Nepalese Contractors (YCNC) to be held between February 19-20. Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae was also present at the occasion.

NEW DELHI/KHATMANDU: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has arrived in Nepal for a three-day visit during which he will attend an infrastructure summit which he said was crucial for accelerating the Himalayan nation’s economic growth.

Prabhu arrived here yesterday to attend the ‘Nepal Infrastructure Summit 2017’, organised by the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) in association with the Nepal government and Youth Community for Nepalese Contractors (YCNC) to be held between February 19-20.

The minister, who is the guest of honour and keynote speaker at the summit said, the infrastructure summit would be pivotal for accelerating economic growth of Nepal at a time when the country is striving to graduate to the league of developing nations.

Confederation of Nepalese Industries give Momento to Union Railway Minister.

Welcoming Prabhu at a reception to honour him yesterday, CNP president Haribhakta Sharma said the minister’s visit will be a good opportunity for sharing ideas and experiences of Indian model of infrastructure development, where involvement of the private sector has become one of the key drivers in accelerating steady rate of economic growth.

Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae was also present at the occasion. During his stay in Nepal, Prabhu will pay a courtesy call to President Bidha Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”.

He will also hold meetings with Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Ramesh Lekhak and other senior government officials as well as private sector representatives.

In a statement, CNI said the minister’s visit will be instrumental in strengthening Nepal-India ties for socio-economic development of both countries.

The Summit is organized with an objective of helping in the economic development of the country by attracting huge investments from the private sector, strengthening regional connection and partnership by realizing the rationale of investment in infrastructure sector.

The summit which is jointly organized by the Government of Nepal and the Youth Community for Nepalese Contractors (YCNC) is focusing on private sector for indispensable partnership.

Similarly, more than 30 experts from industry sector, ministers from the government, policy makers and development partners will be participating in the programme. According to the organizers, former PM Baburam Bhattarai, former finance ministers and ministers of Nepal, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Department for International Development (DFID) (UK), International Finance Corporation (IFC), officials from diplomatic missions and representatives will also be participating in the programme.

Warm welcome in Kathmandu to Indian Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu by Infra Summit organizing committee of Nepal Infrastructure Summit 2017

The Summit will discuss among other things, the possibility of public-private partnership (PPP), successful model of  regional and international level of partnership, the state of infrastructure development, essential environment for growth of investment, infrastructure market, value proposition, flexible financial system and green infrastructure.

Likewise, this Summit will also include ‘infrastructure idea hunt’ as a new subject. People with new ideas in infrastructure development area of the country can present their ideas in the summit. For the purpose, the organizers have already selected 10 ideas in co-work with the Idea Solution.

Acquisition of Land for Rail Link between Agartala and Akhaura in Bangladesh all set to start

AGARTALA: Acquisition of land for a rail link between Agartala and Akhaura in Bangladesh is all set to start, following the commencement of the Agartala-Udaipur railway connectivity last week.

The railway and DoNER ministries have taken a major initiative for early completion of the 15km Agartala-Akhaura link.

This connectivity between Agartala and Akhaura railway junction in Brahmanbari district, 9km west of Agartala town, was mooted during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden visit to Bangladesh in June 2015.

It was decided that the Centre would finance the entire Rs 252-crore project. But as it got bogged down in land acquisition problems on both sides, the estimated cost escalated considerably.

But, as promised by railway minister Suresh Prabhu last Tuesday, the work is all set to start on the project through land acquisition on the Indian side.

Official sources here said the DoNER ministry has sanctioned Rs 100 crore for land acquisition of 67 acres along the 5km line within Indian territory from Agartala station to Gangasagar station near the border. The Centre will reimburse the cost of land acquisition and other collateral expenses for the project.

“The office of the district magistrate, West Tripura, has already received Rs 100 crore to meet the expenses. The land has been identified and owners have been served notices,” said N.C. Das, additional deputy magistrate (West Tripura). He said “pillaring” of the land has been completed and the entire process is expected to be done by the end of March.

On the 5km stretch of the Indian territory there will be three stations – Matripalli, Siddhi Ashram and Mishchindipur – and the first station in Bangladesh will be Gangasagar.

“Of the 5km of railway line, 3.7km will be overhead across high bridges while the remaining portion will be on the ground. On completion of the land acquisition, it will be handed over to the NFR authorities and laying of tracks and related works like construction of small bridges, stations and crossings can be undertaken by the first week of April,” Das said.

A major parallel road will also be built alongside the 15km railway tracks up to Akhaura. NFR sources here said the viability of the railway connectivity up to Akhaura is still open to question as currently those travelling to Bangladesh cross overthrough the checkpost and then go by rickshaw to the railway junction at Akhaura to board trains for their journey.

“Whether people will give up the present advantage to go by rail is doubtful but the new connectivity will help us in transportation of goods from Bangladesh to Tripura via Gangasagar station,” said J.K. Roy, an authority on Tripura’s history.

Indian Railways advances on the proposals of linking neighbouring countries with Rail Networks

Darjeeling: The Centre is mulling linking neighbouring countries like Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal through the railways. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announced the plan in Darjeeling at a programme where an agreement was signed between the Indian Railways and UNESCO.

This was announced here today by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu at a programme where an agreement was signed between the Indian Railways and UNESCO. “We have neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal. We have a very cordial relationship with them. We want to increase railway connectivity with these countries. We are trying to develop it,” Prabhu told reporters.

“If a circuit can be made connecting these neighbouring countries, it will increase interaction, tourism, trade, employment and connectivity,” he added. Prabhu said work was on to connect all the eight state capitals of the north-east, so that the tourism potential of the region gets a boost. Horticulture, floriculture, handicraft of the region would get a bigger market after the state capitals are connected with the rest of the country, the railway minister said, adding that he would visit Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the next two days. Prabhu said investments of Rs 3-3.5 lakh crore would be made in the railways while the amount had been Rs 35,000-40,000 crore a year earlier. This will bring development in the functioning of the railways, he added.

Agartala-Udaipur Railway Line to be Inaugurated on Jan 24

Railway Minister-Tripura CM to inaugurate new rail line. Suresh Prabhu says that this new Rail line would not only strengthen the trade and commerce between India and Bangladesh, but also uplift the economy of people on both the sides.

AGARTALA: The Railway Minister and the Tripura Chief Minister will jointly inaugurate a new railway line beyond the state capital Agartala — up to the state’s southern temple city Udaipur — on January 24, an official said here on Wednesday.

Chief Minister Manik Sarkar met Railway minister Suresh Prabhu on Wednesday in New Delhi and discussed the expansion of railway lines in the northeastern state.

“The Railway Minister told the Tripura Chief Minister that they would jointly inaugurate the 44.76-km new railway line up to Udaipur (district headquarters of Gomati district) from state capital Agartala on January 24,” a Tripura government release said.

Prabhu also assured Sarkar that the Agartala-Udaipur railway track, which is being extended up to Sabroom, the southernmost town of the state near Bangladesh, would be completed by 2019.

Sabroom is just 75 kms from the Chittagong international sea port in Bangladesh.

 “The railway station at Sabroom border town would be made of international standard, as this would be a new gateway for the northeastern states of India,” the release said.

“Prabhu, with regard to the Tripura government’s long pending demand to set up a railway division in the state, told Sarkar that it would not be a tangible benefit, rather it would only add to administrative costs to set up a new railway division.

“A nodal officer of the Railway Board would be appointed in Tripura soon to coordinate with the state government to expedite the ongoing works of the railways,” it added.

Meanwhile, according to Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) Chief Engineer Harpal Singh, the NFR has invested over Rs 1,000 crore to extend the 44.76-km railway line up to Udaipur, southern Tripura’s main commercial city.

“We have completed laying of railway tracks up to Udaipur before schedule of March 2017,” Singh told IANS over phone from Guwahati.

He said: “The railway line would be extended up to South Tripura’s 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.”

The government has been extending railway line up to Sabroom to ferry goods using Bangladesh’s international Chittagong sea port, which is barely 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’s capital city on India’s rail map in October 2008. Subsequently, the metre-gauge track was converted into broad-gauge track.

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

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and Bangladesh’s Rail Minister Majibul Haque jointly laid the foundation stone here on July 31 last year for Agartala-Akhaura railway project.

2281 MT High Speed Diesel sent to Bangladesh from Numaligarh Refinery

Guwahati: A railway rake containing 2,281 Metric Tonne of High Speed Diesel (HSD) has been dispatched from Numaligarh Refinery Limited’s Marketing Terminal in Siliguri to Parbatipur Depot of Bangladesh Petroleum.

The consignment containing 42 wagons will travel over 516 kms (253 km in India and 263 km in Bangladesh) on the existing railway line via Rangapani, Singabad, Rohanpur to reach Parbatipur in Bangladesh, a NRL press release said.

DP Rail signs MoU to design, finance, build, operate and maintain Bangladesh’s new 240km Dhaka-Payra Rail line

Dhaka: British company DP Rail has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of Bangladesh / Bangladesh Railway, in the presence of Her Excellency Alison Blake, the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, and UK’s Trade Envoy for Bangladesh Rt Hon Rushanara Ali MP, for the development of the proposed 240km Dhaka – Payra railway.

The MOU was signed during a ceremony on 20th December 2016 at the Ministry of Railways in Dhaka hosted by Md. Mazibul Hoque MP, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Railways.

Under the terms of this MOU, DP Rail has the exclusive right to develop plans to design, finance, build and operate the railway. The MOU enables DP Rail to proceed with the detailed planning of the railway and to enter into detailed discussions with Payra Port and the users of the port and railway.

DP Rail is working with China Railway Construction Corporation (International) Ltd as its principal civil engineering contractor. Present at the ceremony today to witness the signing were senior representatives from CRCC including Vice President Huang Jianmin.

DP Rail and CRCC have an agreement whereby CRCC will be its partner to undertake the civil engineering construction works for the railway.

The new railway forms a vital part of the Payra Port project, which is designed to provide a new deep water port at the top end of the Bay of Bengal, capable of handling large container ships of 8,000 containers capacity or 120,000 tonnes of cargo.

The British High Commissioner, HE Alison Blake said: “Ms Ali, the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy, and I are delighted to be here for the signing of the MOU between the Govt of Bangladesh and DP Rail. This is a great example of British business expertise supporting the development of Bangladesh infrastructure and future economic development.”

UK Trade Envoy Ms Rushanara Ali MP said: “This is a project of vital national importance to Bangladesh and I welcome the fact that this project has been proposed as a “best of British” railway, representing a substantial export opportunity for the UK railway supply chain. I know from my discussions here that the project also enjoys the unequivocal backing of the Government of Bangladesh, the UK Government, as well as the full support of the Government of the People’s Republic of China through the involvement of DP Rail’s partners, China Railway Construction Corporation. I am looking forward to seeing the benefits that this project will bring to the people and businesses of Dhaka, and to Bangladesh in general.”

Chief Executive of DP Rail, Ian Derbyshire, commented: “Today, we put on record our grateful thanks to the staff of the British High Commission here in Dhaka and to the Department of International Trade in London, as well as to our hosts, the Ministry of Railways. Without all their support this project would not have been possible. Our experienced and knowledgeable team is now ready to put every effort into bringing this exciting and game-changing project to fruition.”

RITES to supply Locomotives to Sri Lanka

New Delhi: Indian Railways has got the export order of supplying 10 Locomotives and six DMU train sets to Sri Lanka. The total size of the order is Rs 700 crore.

Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES), the subsidiary of Indian railways, which has already been working as a Consultant in Sri Lanka Railways has got the order.

Indian Railways has already provided locomotives and train set to Sri Lanka and has also undertaken construction of rail lines in Sri Lanka.

India’s national transporter has also been supplying rail coaches and locomotives to the neighboring Bangladesh. Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu wants that India should become a major rail technology supplier to other countries.

India-Bangladesh rail project work begins

Fifth Steering Committee Meeting of Agartala-Akhaura (Tripura-Bangladesh) Railway Committee held at Agartala on Wednesday

Agartala: Work on the Rs 973-crore India-Bangladesh railway project has started, six years after the finalisation of the vital rail link between the two neighbours, officials said here on Wednesday. The decision was taken in the Indo-Bangla Joint Hearing Committee meeting held in the State Guest House here on Wednesday.

Senior officials of India and Bangladesh held a review meeting here on Wednesday to speed up the work for the new railway project.

“The Bangladesh government has recently started the land acquisition while the same would be initiated in India in December,” India’s external affairs ministry’s joint secretary Ajit Vinayak Gupte said after the meeting.

“Unless requisite lands are acquired, other vital work# cannot be started. By 2018, the new railway project would be functional,” he said.

“Today, we had a meeting with senior officials of Bangladesh Government and discussed the project in details. A road map was prepared to implement a path-breaking railway project”, Joint Secretary of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Arun Kumar Gupte told the media after the meeting.

“Once the project is implemented, the North East will have access to ports in Bangladesh while Bangladesh side will also be benefited”, he said.

Addl Secretary of Bangladesh Railways Sushil Kumar Singhe, who led the Bangladesh team, said all approvals in regard to the railway project connecting Agartala with Bangladesh’s Akhaura railway station have been cleared.

“We have discussed various aspects of the project including land acquisition process in Indian side. And, some specific guidelines were also finalised to implement the project”, he said.

Singhe continued, “The project works are expected to start by end of December as land acquisition process is yet to be completed in Indian side. Once the works are initiated, it will take two and one half years to complete the multi-crore rupee railway project”.

As per the DPR, an amount of Rs 532 crore would be spent on Indian side for laying railway track and elevated corridor while Rs 392 crore is budgeted to complete railway track in Bangladesh side.

Foundation stone for laying 15-km Indo-Bangla railway track was laid by Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu and his Bangladeshi counterpart Mujibul Haque on July 31 this year.

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu and his Bangladeshi counterpart Mazibul Hoque had jointly laid the foundation stone of the project here on July 31 for the 15km Agartala-Akhaura (Bangladesh) railway project.

According to Gupte, 56.5 acres of land would be acquired in Bangladesh while 67 acres of land would be acquired in India to execute the railway project, which according to the officials would facilitate exchange of goods between the two countries.

In Wednesday’s meeting, the eight-member Bangladesh team was headed by additional secretary of the railway ministry of Bangladesh Shashi Kumar Singha.

Later, officials of both India and Bangladesh met Tripura transport minister Manik Dey and apprised him about the progress of the railway project and the outcome of the meeting.

The Indian government would bear the entire expenditure of the project.

Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) chief engineer Harpal Singh, who was present during the meeting, said the DoNER# ministry has released Rs 97 crore to acquire land to lay the tracks in Tripura.

“Following the Tripura government’s persistent persuasion and the 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 said.

“India’s external affairs ministry would provide the necessary funds for the Bangladesh portion of the Agartala-Akhaura rail project,” he added.

The 1,613km route between Agartala and Calcutta via Guwahati-New Jalpaiguri-Kishanganj (Bihar)-Malda would be reduced to only 514km once the new rail track is linked through Bangladesh.

The state-owned Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) has been nominated to act as technical adviser for the Bangladesh portion and to execute the work in the Indian portion.On the Indian side, some portion of the track would be elevated to avoid farmland and habitations.

The NFR is the nodal agency for the project, for which alignment of rail line and other technical details were earlier finalised by officials of both India and Bangladesh.

Currently, India and Bangladesh have four rail links with Bengal. Work on the 15.06 km Indo-Bangla railway project will be a game changer in the Act East Policy, which has started after completion of land acquisition process, according to official sources.

4 Chinese Cos., interested in Kathmandu-Kerung Rail line project

nepal-rail-linesNew Delhi: Four Chinese companies have shown interest to conduct feasibility study of Kathmandu-Rasuwagadhi railway network after Nepal sought the northern neighbour’s help to conduct survey and detailed project report (DPR).

Once the proposed railway is constructed, it will establish direct railway connectivity with Chinese railway which is expected to arrive in Kerung, a bordering town of China across Rasuwagadhi, within a few years.

According to the Department of Railway, Sinohydro, China Railway Fist Survey and Design Institute Group, China Engineering Oversees

Group (COVEC) and China Railway Construction Corporation Limited (CRCC) have applied for conducting the survey.

The Chinese proposals follow Nepal’s request to China to provide financial and technical support for the feasibility study and the preparation of the DPR of the proposed Rasuwagadhi-Kathmandu and Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini Railway Project. The request was made during former prime minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to China in March.

During the visit, it was agreed that the relevant authorities of both sides would exchange ideas and proposals on constructing cross-border railways and rail network in Nepal, and support enterprises to start related preparatory work as soon as possible.

Subsequently, the government had announced through the budget for the current fiscal year that a DPR for Rasuwagadhi-Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini Railway would be prepared and construction would be initiated in two years.

According to Ananta Acharya, director general of the Department of Railway, these Chinese companies have submitted the proposals at the department as well as the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport.  “There have been discussions on the proposals at the government level,” he said.  “The Prime Minister’s Office has also been inquiring about the latest developments regarding the project.”

Among the applicants, Sinohydro, which is basically involved in the hydropower sector, is also involved in railway development.

It had got the construction contract of constructing a part of Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway. It is also the company involved in hydropower development and construction contracts in Nepal.

The COVEC is a fully-funded subsidiary of China Railway Group Limited. According to the Chinese company’ website, COVEC has undertaken and executed more than 1,000 large and medium-sized overseas projects with the total contract value of $5.8 billion and carried out international trade of $1 billion US dollar.

China Railway Fist Survey and Design Institute (CCRC) Group is the company which was also involved in constructing Qinghai-Tibet railway which is expected to extend to Kerung. Besides China, it is also involved in Iraq, Nigeria and Tanzania, according to the company’s website.

The CRCC was solely established by China Railway Construction Corporation in 2007 in Beijing which has now emerged as a mega-size construction corporation.

The business of CRCC covers project contracting, survey design consultation, industrial manufacturing, real estate development, logistics, trade of goods and materials as well as capital operations, according to the company’s website.

With China working to extend railway line from Shigatse to Kerung in a few years, many in Nepal see cross-border railway a possibility, which will not only provide new transport connectivity with the northern neighbour but will also scale up economic ties between the two countries.

With Nepal and China signing transit agreement paving the way for Chinese territory for third-country trade, railway connectivity is a must.

Meanwhile, China CAMC Engineering Company Ltd, which has submitted a feasibility report on Kathmandu-Pokhara electric railway to the government, plans to develop 164.395-kilometre railway, which will have 27 tunnels and 53 bridges. This is the same company which is building a regional international airport in Pokhara.

Railway gears up to curb illegal trade between India and Pakistan

A nine-layer security arrangement has been put in place at the Old Delhi Railway Station from where the Delhi-Atari Express departs twice every week.

The Zero Point railway station near Zero Line on the Indo-Pak International Border
The Zero Point railway station near Zero Line on the Indo-Pak International Border

New Delhi:  Rampant illegal trade between India and Pakistan through land and rail route has prompted the railway authorities to beef up security arrangements at Delhi and Atari railway stations.

Security and intelligence agencies are keeping a close watch on luggage being carried by passengers on the Samjhauta Express. A nine-layer security arrangement has been put in place at the Old Delhi Railway Station from where the Delhi-Atari Express departs twice every week.

According to security officials, a majority of Pakistani nationals returning from India tend to carry a large quantity of betel leaf, Indian clothes, cosmetics, medicine and other eatables. However, the Railways has restricted the quantity of luggage passengers can carry with them.

Notably, Indian betel leaf and pan masala are quite popular in Pakistan since the former is not grown there.

bsf-near-indo-pak-border-rail-linNo wonder a betel leaf in Pakistan costs over Rs 20-30 depending on the availability in the market. “There is a big difference between the prices of local and imported ‘paan’ simply because a duty of `250 per kilo is levied on the import,” a source said.

He added that the importer also had to pay 10 per cent sales tax and five per cent income tax. Local paan costs Rs 50-100 per kilo, while imported paan costs Rs 300-550 per kilo.

Delhi Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Arun Arora said that security has been enhanced at the Old Delhi railway station particularly in wake of growing tension between the two countries. “Security arrangements have been beefed up. All passengers and luggage are frisked at different levels before they are allowed to board the train,” he said. Agencies like Delhi Police, Railway Protection Force, Immigration Bureau, customs, enforcement directorate and railways carry out an intensive exercise before departure of train.

ADB approves largest ever Railway financing package in Bangladesh

adb-bangladesh-railwaysDhaka: The Asian Development Bank approved its largest ever railway investment and its biggest investment in Bangladesh on September 28, a US$1·5bn loan package to finance the construction of a 102 km railway line which will link the tourist town of Cox’s Bazar with the existing network at Dohazari.

Construction of the 1 676/1 000 mm dual gauge line is expected to cost a total of US$2·012bn. The government is to provide US$512m on top of the four-tranche ADB financing, and a further $1m in technical assistance to help Bangladesh Railway with safety awareness and procurement. The government is also rehabilitating the existing 47 km Chittagong – Dohazari line under a separate project.

ADB said the nine new stations would provide links to other transport modes, and would be designed with the needs of the elderly, women, children and people with disabilities in mind.

ADB expects high demand from the 2·2 million people living in the Cox’s Bazar district. Special trains would run from Dhaka to support an expected 5% annual increase in the 1·9 million tourists who visit the town’s beaches every year.

Under a second phase, ADB expects to enhance the capacity of the future rail line and finance extensions to the Myanmar border and a planned deep-sea port on Matarbari Island, north of Cox’s Bazar. Converting the Dhaka – Chittagong line to dual gauge is to be financed under another ADB project.

The project forms part of the United Nations Economic & Social Commission for Asia & the Pacific’s Trans-Asia Railway network, and is intended to improve access to Myanmar and beyond.

The new line is one of a number of projects on the Dhaka – Chittagong – Cox’s Bazar and Dhaka – Khulna corridors which ADB and other partners are supporting to help Bangladesh meet its targets under its seventh five year plan and railway master plan. The overall aim is to increase BR’s market share from around 4% at present to 15% for freight and 10% for passenger traffic.

Will restore pre-1965 Rail lines with India: Bangladesh

Bangladesh seeks greater economic integration with North Eastern states of India. Bangladesh is keen to develop its industries in a joint venture with India and boost bilateral trade, re-connect the pre-independence Rail lines with India; Bangladesh Industry Minister Alhaz Amir Hossain Amu said at Agartala

Agartala: Bangladesh will restore the pre-1965 railway connectivity with India that was disrupted by the India-Pakistan war, Bangladesh Industry Minister Amir Hossain Amu said on Thursday.

“The Bangladesh government would like to bring substantive changes in terms of connectivity with India. We would restore the pre-1965 railway links on priority basis,” he said while addressing the third ‘North East Connectivity Summit’ in Agartala.

Asserting that Bangladesh and India are now enjoying the best friendly relationship ever, Bangladesh Industries Minister Amir Hussain Amu said “Dhaka wants to have greater economic integration, particularly with India’s North East.” This will facilitate North East’s socio-economic development and better connectivity with rest of India for rapid development of the region, he added while speaking at the 3rd Northeast Connectivity Summit at Prajna Bhavan here on Thursday.

He said: “Air connectivity between Guwahati and Dhaka and Shillong and Agartala via Dhaka could be explored after examining the commercial viability.”

The visiting minister said Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar, known as BCIM region, is one of the richest in the world in terms of resources.

“The region, with a population of 440 million, covers nine per cent of the world’s total area and 7.3 per cent of the global gross domestic product.”

Amu said over the past seven years, Bangladesh and India have witnessed tremendous progress in almost all areas, including security, connectivity, power, trade and commerce.

“To boost trade and commerce between Bangladesh and India’s north-east region, we are improving trade infrastructure, immigration, customs facilities, developing land ports. Bangladesh is north-east India’s natural business partner,” the minister added.

India’s External Affairs Ministry’s Joint Secretary Partha Satpathy said India’s ‘Act East Policy’ has been extremely successful in terms of diplomacy for development, regional security, energy security, political aspects and other vital issues.

“Several connectivity-related projects are now underway to connect north-east India with south-east Asian countries. India is playing a vital role in important regional bodies like the South-east Asian Nations or Asean and BIMSTEC to provide greater global exposure to the regional grouping,” Satpathy said.

Headquartered in Dhaka, BIMSTEC includes India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Myanmar for multi-sectoral technical and economic cooperation.

Tripura Commerce and Industry Minister Tapan Chakraborty said the northeast with four per cent of India’s population and eight per cent geographical area had vast untapped resources.

Nagaland Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang emphasised on building road infrastructure, development and people-to-people connectivity.

He opposed the border fencing with Myanmar, and instead asked the central government to undertake more developmental projects along the India-Myanmar border.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said due to the central government’s impractical policies, resources of the northeast remained untapped.

Addressing the summit, NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy said it would aid, facilitate and monitor governmental schemes, plans and projects in the country.

The three-day summit has been organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and supported by the Tripura government.

FICCI’s North East Advisory Council Chairman Ranjit Barthakur said that during the three-day summit experts, diplomats, officials and investors would discuss infrastructure development, information technology, healthcare, agriculture, bamboo plantation, connectivity, development of border infrastructure and development of road, air and water connectivity in the region.

Bangladsh to build 280km Joydevpur-Dhaka-Payra Seaport Railway line

Payra rail link to bring $7.5b FDI push for Bangladesh
Payra rail link to bring $7.5b FDI push for Bangladesh

Dhaka: A British company has proposed to invest $7.5 billion in the Dhaka-Payra seaport rail link project, a vital infrastructure as part of the Bangladesh government’s ambitious economic development plan.

An official of the railways ministry said the UK firm — DP Rail — has submitted a proposal in this regard.

The decision about the proposal would be made at a top-level meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office by the end of this month, the official added.

Earlier, the shipping ministry invited an Expression of Interest for investment in various components of the Payra seaport in Kuakata of Patuakhali. So far, five companies, including DP Rail, submitted proposals for the 127km rail link project.

A Bangladesh Rail ministry official said that the shipping ministry primarily shortlisted the British firm as eligible.

On Saturday, Finance Minister AMA Muhith told that British private investors would build a rail line from Dhaka to Payra.

“Payra is becoming a much better port in Bangladesh, which will be one of the best in the region. It is going to be really a good seaport,” the minister said.

Muhith later told The Daily Star that the money would come as Foreign Direct Investment.

Earlier in August, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed told the media that the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Alison Blake, said that the UK was keen to invest in Padma Bridge-Kuakata railway link and Payra port.

Talking to this newspaper yesterday, the rail ministry official said the British company in the proposal mentioned that it would do the job together with China Railway Construction Corporation Ltd.

The DP Rail’s proposal includes construction of an Inland Container Depot and a landing port at Payra, the official added, asking not to be named.

The rail link between Dhaka and Payra is crucial, as the government plans to build it as the main seaport of the country by 2022.

Payra sits on the Bay of Bengal and has all the potential to become an international seaport, but its road and rail links with Dhaka and other parts of the country are poor at the moment.

According to the DP Rail’s website, the company is working to finance, design, build, operate and maintain the Dhaka-Payra based upon FDI.

It said the DP Rail encompasses the investment, engineering, operations, planning and programming management expertise required.

Interport BD Limited has 50 percent share in DP Rail. The company wants to develop a freight railway linking Dhaka with Payra and the rest of Bangladesh, and a possible link to the Seven Sisters region of India.

Interport is a specialist transport and logistics company, based in Shropshire, England, although most of its activities are currently in Bangladesh.

The company has recently completed a technical and economic feasibility study of the proposed Payra port.

The Payra seaport became operational on a limited scale in August, after it was inaugurated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Earlier, British firm HR Wallingford & Consortium prepared a techno-feasibility study of the Payra port, having 19 components with a total investment of $16 billion.

A shipping ministry official said the $16 billion include government to government funding and FDI.

Already, the shipping ministry has sent a proposal to the planning ministry for the Payra seaport project.

Rail Roko attempts foiled in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Mandya

Kannada activists stage a Rail Roko protest over Cauvery dispute in Kolar on Thursday.
Kannada activists stage a Rail Roko protest over Cauvery dispute in Kolar on Thursday.

Bengaluru: Railway services were barely affected as the police foiled attempts to enforce a Statewide call to block trains on Thursday as a part of the protest against the Supreme Court’s order to State on releasing water to Tamil Nadu. The call for a ‘rail roko’ given by the Kannada Okkoota against the discharge of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu evoked poor response in the district on Thursday.

Security had been tightened at all railway stations in anticipation of protests.

In Bengaluru, activists, including Vatal Nagaraj and Sa. Ra. Govind, were detained as they attempted to barge into Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna (Bengaluru city) Railway Station. Similarly, protests were foiled in Mandya and Mysuru.

In Kolar, protesters belonging to various Kannada outfits managed to stop the Kolar–Bangapet train for a few minutes before they were detained.

The protesters demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi intervene in the matter and avoid “injustice” being meted out to farmers of Karnataka.

Members of several Kannada organisations in the district had said that they would stop the movement of trains between Bengaluru and Mysuru.

“Anticipating massive demonstrations, we had deployed security personnel at all railway stations across the district,” a senior police officer said. However, only a few persons participated in a demonstration that held outside the railway stations.

Members of ‘Kadamba Sainya’ staged a demonstration outside the railway station here to urge the State government to stop releasing water to the neighbouring State.

The police arrested five agitators, when they attempted to enter the railway station stage a rail roko agitation. The arrested agitators were released later, the officer said.

160 year old Rail line reopens for Trains to Bangladesh via.Radhikapur after 11 years

Radhikapur: Rail services between India and Bangladesh through the Radhikapur border in North Dinajpur will resume from the end of this month after 11 years. The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) today made a trial run with a diesel locomotive to test the tracks from Radhikapur to the end of the zero point along the international border. According to sources in the NFR, goods train services would be started from the end of this month.

“The railway track connecting Dinajpur, now in Bangladesh, to Calcutta via Radhikapur was built in 1857. It was a metre-gauge track and was converted to broad gauge in 2005 and movement of metre-gauge trains stopped. Yesterday, the conversion of the tracks from Radhikapur till the zero point, a distance of 400m was completed. The Bangladesh railways have also finished their gauge conversion,” said an NFR source.

The source said three years ago the Bangladesh railways had converted the tracks from Dinajpur to Birol station.

The NFR chief engineer Bhagwan Saheb said the railway ministry had started the initiative in June this year.

Of the six rail links that exist between the two countries, three are operational and work on the Shahbazpur-Kulaurha, Birol-Radhikapur, Chilhati-Haldibarhi rail links is in progress currently.

Railways are working to link Northeastern India with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. According to Indian Railways, to provide rail connectivity to the neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, the Construction Organization of Indian Railways has undertaken many survey works for new railway lines to these countries.

“Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has already connected Bangladesh at Singhabad. Works to connect Radhikapur and Haldibari are in progress. The proposed Agartala-Akhaura International rail link project will boost socio-economic development of not only Tripura state but entire Northeast Region and the nation as a whole”, the NFR in a statement added.

The link will be a part of the Trans Asian Railway network and will provide a much shorter connectivity from Tripura to Kolkata.

On completion, this India -Bangladesh rail line project will be Gateway to entire North Eastern region. It will connect Northeast India with Ashuganj and Chittagong Port of Bangladesh. It will also connect Agartala to Kolkata via Dhaka shortly. The existing distance between Agartala and Kolkata on Indian Railway network is 1613 Km which will get reduced by around 900 KM.

NFR added that at present there is no rail line in Bhutan. Feasibility studies have been carried out for extending Rail head (India) to Bhutan at five locations. In Nepal, one Broad gauge connectivity work between Jogbani (India) and Biratnagar(Nepal) (18.60 Km) is in progress.

Pak Railways hit by Rs 16 billion Signalling System scam

Despite investing heavily, Pakistan still rely on a sinalling system from the colonial era. Two recent accidents in Punjab province, in which nine people were killed and over 150 injured, were reportedly caused by “out-dated signalling systems

pak-rlys-signaling-scamLahore: Pakistan Railways has been hit by a Rs 16-billion scam relating to replacement of its colonial-era signalling system with a modern system, according to an internal audit report that has forced the government to probe a consortium of Bombardier Transport and Chinese company.

Despite investing heavily, Pakistan still rely on a sinalling system from the colonial era. Two recent accidents in Punjab province, in which nine people were killed and over 150 injured, were reportedly caused by “out-dated signalling systems”.

According to the Internal Audit Report, two projects to update the signalling systems were awarded to a consortium of Bombardier Transport and China Railways Signal and Communication Corporation (BT-CRSC) in 2008-09.

“The project cost had swelled to Rs 16 billion till 2014. The incumbent administration under Khawaja Saad Rafique, Railways Minister, allocated additional Rs 7 billion but the projects could not be completed,” the report said.

The report has recommended sending the matter to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for criminal proceedings against the contractor and officials responsible for the fraud.

Interestingly, the minister completely ignored the 98-page audit report and allocated the additional Rs 7 billion for the projects in violation of prescribed rules.

“We are looking into the matter and refer it to the NAB for investigation,” a government official said. “All those responsible for fraud in the signalling system projects will be taken to task,” he added.

More than 400 train accidents has happened since Rafique took over in mid 2013, according to the railways record. In most cases the railways’ chief has blamed drivers for the tragedies.

The driver involved with last week’s collision between a passenger and a freight train claimed that the signal was green and hence the confusion led to the accident.

“Critical infrastructure – especially tracks and the signalling system – cannot be left unattended and must be constantly monitored and maintained to avoid such accidents.

Some of the infrastructure damaged in Sindh in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s 2007 assassination still awaits repair,” an official said.

An editorial in the Dawn newspaper on the issue has suggested to the Nawaz Sharif government to learn from India.

“We can learn from India with whom we share a common colonial Railways’ heritage. The authorities there have managed to install an automated signalling system on most of the main lines. Considering the commonalities, perhaps our Railways’ authorities can study our eastern neighbour’s model,” the editorial said.

Bangladesh okays Akhaura-Agartala rail link project

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina chairs the meeting of executive committee of the National Economic Council at the NEC conference room at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in the city on Tuesday. Approval of Bangladesh’s  Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) headed by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for Akhaura-Agartala rail link project is one of the important and key milestone for the economic development of the region.

Dhaka: The Bangladesh government yesterday approved the construction of Akhaura-Agartala dual gauge railway link project aiming to improve rail connectivity and boost trade and economy between the India and Bangladesh.

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC), chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, nodded to the part of the project that falls on Bangladesh side.

The project on the Bangladesh side will cost about Tk 477.81 crore. Of the amount, Bangladesh will provide Tk 57.05 crore while the rest will come from India as grant.

After the ECNEC meeting, Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal told reporters that the rail link project has been undertaken to improve Bangladesh’s connectivity with the north-eastern states of India.

The rail link will open up markets of India’s northeastern states for Bangladesh, enhance smooth transportation of goods and facilitate people to people contact. The connectivity will also lower transportation cost and time.

The railway link might be considered as a corridor of the Trans Asian Railway Network and the subregional connectivity, according to the railway ministry’s proposal.

In 2010, during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to New Delhi, the two countries agreed to lay the 15.54 kilometre long railway link between Akhaura and Agartala.

A stretch of 10.54 km of the track will be on the Bangladesh side while the rest on the Indian side. The laying of the railway tracks are estimated to be completed by 2017.

In today’s meeting, the ECNEC also approved six other new projects involving a total cost of Tk 1,095 crore, of which Bangladesh will provide Tk 674.71 crore while Tk 420.76 crore will come as project finance.

Rouge Nation Pakistan runs Azadi Train covered with posters of Terrorist Burhan Wani

Our neighbouring rogue nation ‘Pakistan’ features dreaded terrorist Burhan Wani as ‘martyr’ in their Special Azadi Train. After Salahuddin’s nuclear war threat, Pakistan again ups the ante on its claim for Kashmir!

burhan waniIslamabad/Karachi: The real face of Pakistan – a state unfortunately carved out of India in 1947 as a separate nation on extreme religious lines has been exposed once again! In a shameful and condemnable incident, posters of slain terrorist Burhan Wani has been put up on the walls of Pakistan’s ‘Azadi Express’ train.

burhan wani with islamists
Terrorism on Religious Lines – a time pass game created by Pakistan for Kashmiri youth. India’s Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi recently said that these youngsters from J&K instead of holding Books and Laptops are unfortunately encouraged to carry guns and stones with extreme and unnatural hatred towards India – their own country, which has an impeccable and exemplary track record of religious tolerance of highest degree since ages unknown.

Posters of Burhan Wani, the 22-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander who was shot dead by military forces on 8 July in J&K, have been posted on Pakistan’s Azadi Special Express train.

Pakistan, ahead of its Independence Day, has put up Burhan Wani’s posters on the walls of its ‘Azadi Express’ train.

The train will go to Karachi from Peshawar on 14 August, Pakistan’s independence day.

This is another example of Pakistan upping the ante on its claim for Kashmir purely on religious lines.

Besides posters of Wani, the train is also covered with photos of Kashmiri civilians who were left injured during heavy stone pelting and protests that broke out after Wani’s death.

On Monday, Syed Salahuddin, head of Hizbul Mujahideen – a terrorist organisation covertly run by Pakistan’s ISI, had threatened a nuclear attack on New Delhi. “Pakistan is duty bound, morally bound, politically bound and constitutionally bound to provide concrete, substantial support to the ongoing freedom struggle on religious lines on the territory of Kashmir.

And if Pakistan provides this support, there is a great chance of a nuclear war between the two powers,” Salahuddin told the media in Karachi.

He said that he can predict a fourth war with certainty because the Kashmiris are no longer willing to compromise under any circumstances to stay with secular India and want to join Islamic state.

Islamic Train run by Pakistan
Pakistan – a Nation of Religious Maniacs! State run Islamic Train by Pakistan Railways at Karachi Railway Station

He further said the Kashmiri people have reached this conclusion that they have no second option except to go ahead with an armed struggle and an armed jihad against India

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif too praised Wani and also remarked that “Kashmir will one day become Pakistan”, a comment which evoked a sharp reaction from External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who said his dream of the state becoming a part of his country “will not be realised even at the end of eternity”.

Burhan Wani was a militant who was killed by Indian Army on July 8. Since then, there have been many violent protests in the valley which has lead to deaths of at civilians until now.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday blamed Pak-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) for orchestrating protests in Jammu and Kashmir that entered the 33rd day even as Parliament debated the unrest in the Valley.

The agency’s assertion was based on the videographed interrogation of Pakistani terrorist Bahadur Ali, who was arrested in North Kashmir on July 25. The video shows 21-year-old Ali, a resident of Raiwind in Lahore, talking about the role of LeT and sophisticated communication network raised with the assistance of the Pakistani Army. This is first time the agency has shown the video statement of a captured terrorist.

Inspector General of NIA Sanjeev Singh told reporters that Ali was constantly guided and directed by LeT control centre Alpha-3, which is located in the high altitude of Pak-pccupied-Kashmir.

“During communications with Ali, Alpha-3 said that LeT cadres had been successful in fuelling large scale agitation in Kashmir after Eid subsequent to the death of Burhan Wani (self-styled commander of Hizbul Mujahideen) in Kashmir. Further investigation is continuing on the disclosure of Ali regarding his role in the present unrest in Kashmir,” he said.

He said Alpha-3, with the help of Pak armed forces, is a fixed communication centre. Once the terrorists are inside Indian territory, Alpha-3 “guides, directs and controls their operations” and whenever required, it arranges tactical and material support through previously identified contacts.

According to the NIA, Ali was recruited in Hafiz Sayeed-led Jamaat ud Dawa (JUD) in 2008-2009 at the tender age of 13-14 years. He was tasked with collecting ‘Jihad fund’ in his village. He was radicalised and made to serve in the office of the NGO of LeT ‘Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation’ in Lahore. Ali had undergone three training courses 15 day Daura-e-Tulba (basic training) and 21 days Daura-e-Am (first stage of arms training)

 

Tibet-Nepal-India Rail line across the Himalayas is feasible: China

“The construction of a railway crossing the Himalayan mountains is now economically and technologically feasible,” Zong Gang, Deputy Director of the Science and Technology Department at Beijing University of Technology, told a forum here run by the China Tibetology Research Centre.

New Delhi: A trans-Himalayan railway connecting Tibet with India and Nepal is economically and technically feasible, Chinese officials say even as Beijing looks to make Tibet an economic and cultural hub connecting China with South Asia.

“The construction of a railway crossing the Himalayan mountains is now economically and technologically feasible,” Zong Gang, deputy director of the science and technology department at Beijing University of Technology, told a forum run by the China Tibetology Research Centre in Beijing.

The Himalayan railway will start from Xigaze, a city in Tibet, run to Gyirong, a land port on the Chinese border, and extend into Nepal. But it will not be a high-speed railway, state-run China Daily quoted Chinese researchers as saying at the forum on Thursday.

China built a railway running for more than 1,100 km to connect the highland region of Tibet with the rest of the country in 2006 and extended it to Xigaze with an additional 250-km rail link connecting the city to Tibetan provincial capital Lhasa.

China now mulls a rail link to both Nepal and Yadong, a Tibetan county close to Sikkim border. Chinese officials say that in future it can be connected to India. The daily on Friday published a map with railway line linking Xigaze with Yadong and Burang, both closer to Indian borders in Sikkim and Uttarakhand, and Gyirong, bordering Nepal.

The altitude at Gyirong port is 2,800 meters above sea level, while the Gyirong mountain pass to Nepal lies at about 1,800 meters, making the railway geographically feasible, Zong said. In contrast, Lhasa, where China has built a railway network, is about 3,700 meters above sea level and the altitude at Xigaze is about 3,800 meters.

The rail line extension between Xigaze and Nepal border was agreed to this year during visit of then Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, who signed transit treaty with China in a bid to reduce landlocked Nepal’s dependence on India for supplies. Oli was perceived as being sympathetic to China.

But the fall of the Oli government and the election of Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda as new prime minister has raised anxieties in Beijing over the return of India’s influence in the Himalayan nation and the fate of a number of connectivity projects.

“Once Prachanda takes power, he is bound to rectify Oli’s pro-China tendency when in government and take India’s interests into account, as India is sour about losing its grip on Nepal,” according to an article in the state-run Global Times published on 29 July.

“The fixed agreements between China and the Oli government are unlikely to be changed, or it will deal a heavy blow to bilateral ties, which is too much for the new government to bear,” it said.

Tripura in Broad Gauge Rail map; Link to Bangladesh laid

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu assures Manipur that the ongoing Jiribam-Imphal railway project would be extended up to Moreh, Manipur’s border township

Imphal: Marking a historic moment for Manipur, Union Minister of Railways, Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu laid the foundation stone of the proposed Imphal Railway Station in front of an impressive gathering at Imphal. Prabhu today laid the foundation stone of Imphal Railway Station at Yurembam, 13km southwest of Imphal city, in the presence of chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh and minister of state for railways Rajen Gohain.

The Union Minister of State for Railways, Rajen Gohain, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam, Member of Lok Sabha Dr Thokchom Meinya, Member of Lok Sabha Thangso Baite, IFCD Minister Ngamthang Haokip, MLA K Sharat Singh, General Manager of NF Railway Chahatey Ram, General Manager of NF Railway Construction Organization H K Jaggi, senior Railway officials and Senior State Government officials were present at the solemn function held at the proposed site of the new railway station.

The Railway Minister also formally announced commencement of the work of the longest tunnel of Indian Railway (11.55 km long tunnel No.T 12) on the Jiribam Tupul Imphal new broad gauge railway line.

Speaking at the occasion, the Railway Minister said connectivity is the prime driver of development and the Railway Ministry would not spare any resources for bringing in speedy development of rail connectivity in the region.

He said that Indian Railways have taken a holistic approach towards development and the 111-km long new broad gauge railway line from Jiribam to Imphal will not only connect Imphal to the rest of the country but also open up new vistas for economic development of the region. The 111km Imphal-Jiribam railway line was launched in 2004. It has 45 tunnels, measuring 43km. So far, construction of 12.5km railway line from Jiribam to Dolakhal has been completed and freight services up to Dolakhal commissioned in March this year.

Prabhu said, “we are proud of our cultural heritage and therefore the proposed Imphal Station had been designed incorporating the architectural elements of Kangla Fort Gate and Shri Govindji Temple two historical monuments of Manipur.” He said that the Union Minister of State for Railways, Rajen Gohain would be entrusted with monitoring the progress of the projects so that they can be completed in time.

Prabhu also announced the commencement of the work of tunnel No 12 and said the tunnel would not only connect two parts of Manipur by rail but would also be a symbolic representation of the State getting connected to mainland India.

Union Minister of State for Railways, Rajen Gohain in his speech reiterated the Government’s commitment towards all-round development of the North Eastern region and assured that he would personally monitor the progress of all railway projects in the region.

Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, while expressing immense satisfaction and happiness for Indian Railway’s initiatives for bringing in better connectivity to the region, requested the Government to consider extending the railway line to Moreh from Imphal.

He assured all possible help including safety and security arrangements for the men and materials involved in railway projects in the State.

The 111-km long Jiribam Tupul Imphal new broad gauge railway project was taken up in 2008.The project was declared a National Project because of its importance.

The 12.5 km Jiribam to Dholakhal section has been completed and commissioned for freight train in March 2016.On the 84km Jiribam Tupul section, out of the 37 tunnels, 25 have been completed as on April 30, 2016 and the works for the rest are also progressing well.

There are two striking special features of the Jiribam Imphal new broad gauge railway line -the first is the tallest bridge of the world being constructed over Iring river with a pier height of 141 metres (almost equal to two Qutub Minar stacked over each other) and the second is tunnel No 12 with a length of 11.55 km, which would be the longest tunnel in India.

The proposed Imphal Railway Station is located in Yurembam village at about 13 kms from the centre of Imphal and just about 1.50 kms from the airport.

The overall cost of construction of the Station Building will be around Rs 8.7 crore.

It will include three passenger platforms and coach.

Land acquisition for Bangladesh Rail link to start soon as DoNER Ministry releases funds

Agartala: Acquisition of land for rail link between Agartala and Akhaura in Bangladesh will start soon as funds have been released by DoNER ministry, officials said today.

“Rs 97 crore were earmarked for land for Agartala- Akhaura rail project in the Indian side. The entire amount has been handed over to the state government and we will start acquisition of land in five-kilometre area up to the border on Indian side. “As we have to give notices to the land owners, it will take about three months to complete the process,” West Tripura District Magistrate Milind Ramteke told reporters.

The process of laying the 15.054-km-long railway tracks to connect Agartala with Akhaura in Bangladesh will be completed by 2017. Of the total track, a stretch of five kilometre would be on the Indian side and the rest in Bangladesh.

A flyover (viaduct) which will be 3.7 km long would be constructed on the Indian side to save cultivable lands and the entire project cost would be borne by the government, he said.

DoNER has already sanctioned Rs 580 crore for the project as New Delhi is keen to establish the rail link which would connect West Bengal and Tripura through Bangladesh.

The Agartala-Akhaura railway route would connect Indian Railways with Bangladesh Railways to improve connectivity and boost trade between the two countries.

Also the 1,700 km distance between Agartala and Kolkata which passes the ‘chicken s neck’ in Siliguri would be reduced to 350 km if passengers could move through Bangladesh, officials said.

The entire project cost for laying down the track on Indian side and Bangladeshi side would be borne by India.

The two neighbouring countries had agreed to lay the tracks between Akhaura and Agartala duringing Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to New Delhi in January 2010.

Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) has hiked the Northeast Railway Budget by as much as 151% within the last two years of its term which stood at Rs 5340 crore. A lot of priority is being given to connectivity in the Northeast including the rail network, citing how  Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the first ever rail link to Meghalaya and around the same time, Arunachal Pradesh was also brought on the rail map of India. The Akhaura-Agartala-Bangladesh is going to be a game changer. The Ministry of Railways has offered to contribute Rs 580 crore for the construction of a railway track on the Indian side while for across the border, funds will be borne by the Ministry of External Affairs. As regards the fast-track movement of rail expansion in Northeast, the work on the broad-gauge track was expedited in the last two years. During the year 2015-16, over 500 km of broad-gauge railway track was laid in the region. This includes the broad-gauge track to Agartala which became functional on February 20, 2016 and also Kathakat-Bhairabi in Mizoram.

Rail and road connectivity to the Northeast will pave the way for growth in the areas of employment, tourism, revenue, trade and economic development of the region, in addition to the innovative work on laying down of waterways along the Brahmaputra up to the Bay of Bengal has also been undertaken which will not only prove to be an alternative means of transport but also be much more cost effective.

India, Sri Lanka discuss issues regarding Rail Network development

Narendra Modi inaugurating Train from Thalaimannar Peer in Sri Lanka during his visit
File Pic: Prime Minister of India Mr.Narendra Modi flagging off a train service at Talaimannar in Sri Lanka on Saturday the 14 March 2015

New Delhi: India and Sri Lanka on Tuesday discussed various issues regarding overall development of railway network including upgradation of signalling and telecommunication system in the island nation.

Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha and Sri Lanka’s Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama discussed a range of issues regarding the development of railway network.

India has been extending concessional Line of Credit (LoC) to Sri Lanka to support various projects in the infrastructure sector including Railways. Till date, more than USD 1 billion of LoC has been extended to Sri Lanka for various railway projects.

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Colombo in March 2015, a fresh Line of Credit of US $ 318 million for railway sector projects was announced.

“Sri Lanka has proposed to use the fresh LoC for purchase of six diesel multiple units (DMU), each with two power cars and 12 coaches (US $ 106 million) 160 passenger coaches (US $ 62 million) and track materials to rehabilitate around 150 km of Railway track (US $ 150 million),” said an official statement.

Using some of the concessional credit extended to Sri Lanka, Indian Railways’ PSU IRCON wants to upgrade the Anuradhapur-Omanthai section of the railway line in the Northern Province. It also wishes to upgrade Maho-Anuradhapura section, including new signalling and telecommunication works, an official release said.

India also expressed its willingness to construct a new railway line from Trincomalee to Medawachchiya in Sri Lanka, estimated to be around $300 million.

China plans whopping $9b loan for Bangladesh

China plans 9 billion dollars loan for six rail projects in Bangladesh

China Bangla rail tieupBeijing: China plans to provide Bangladesh with a whopping $9 billion low-interest loan to build six rail projects including one close to the Indian border, official media here reported on Tuesday.

Bangladesh wants to use the low-interest loans to build at least six rail projects connecting its capital Dhaka with key domestic industrial areas and the Indian border.

The upgrade was part of $30 billion plan by Bangladesh to modernise its railway system and China is ready to play an active role in this regard, an article in the state-run Global Times said.

China’s reported offer to Bangladesh “attracted a lot of attention following analysts’ suggestion that “Bangladesh has become a focus for the growing geopolitical rivalry between Beijing and New Delhi,” it said.

China’s strategic intentions to extend its trade tentacles across Asia through the promotion of the Belt and Road (Silk Road) initiative are believed to be behind Bangladesh’s enthusiasm for rail, but this is worthy of debate,” it said.

“Cheap financing from China expressly for this purpose is irresistible for Bangladesh. However, India may feel uncomfortable with the increased economic interaction between China and Bangladesh, which to some extent has long been seen as India’s own backyard. But this is not necessarily a bad thing if Bangladesh’s enhanced economic ties with China can put some pressure on New Delhi to pay more attention to strengthening economic cooperation with Dhaka,” it said.

Rail Boom in Bangladesh to spur Country’s growth

Bangladesh Rail commutersDhaka: In Bangladesh, it’s the age of rail; reports Bloomberg.  After decades of neglect and decline, the nation’s railway network, much of it dating back to British colonial times, is being updated under a $30 billion plan to renovate stations and workshops, buy new trains and lay thousands of kilometers of new track.

The renewed enthusiasm for rail in one of Asia’s poorest nations is largely due to ambitious agenda of China to extend trade tentacles across Asia.

China’s efforts to turn its Silk Road investments into workable projects have been slow-going in more developed countries like Thailand because of a reluctance to become too dependent on Asia’s largest economy. But for Bangladesh, the combination of technology and cheap finance is irresistible.

Bangladesh Rail passengersBeijing is offering $9 billion in loans at 2 percent interest, repayable over 15 years with a five-year grace period, according to a document seen by Bloomberg. The funding plan was discussed at two meetings last year, say officials who were briefed on the talks and asked not to be named because the negotiations are private.

Dhaka wants the cash to build at least six rail projects connecting the capital with key industrial areas and the Indian border. Together with a program of updating existing lines and building bridges, the policy could raise the nation’s economic growth to among the fastest in the region.

“In contrast with trade agreements, which are top down and take time to negotiate, the Silk Road project is a bottom-up project that creates jobs for Bangladesh right away,” Tan Khee Giap, an associate professor at Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said by phone. “China has the surplus capital and the ability to facilitate this kind of approach.”

Bangladesh Rail passengers during IdBangladesh’s government on May 3 approved a 172-kilometer (107 miles) rail project that will cost 350 billion taka ($4.5 billion) and will connect Dhaka and Jessore, a district on the border with India, linking the capital to the country’s southwest for the first time by rail.

Biggest Bridge

China will provide 247 billion taka in soft loans, under plans for the project. The track will cross the 6.15-kilometer Padma bridge, which will be the nation’s largest once completed by China Major Bridge Engineering Co. under a 121-billion taka contract.

Bangladesh Rail children playingThe bridge is the centerpiece of efforts to connect a nation that’s been fragmented for centuries by some 700 rivers that flow across its vast floodplains. The bridge, over the main channel of the Ganges, should open to traffic by 2018, with the Jessore rail line due to be completed four years later. The two projects would boost the country’s economic growth by 1.5-1.75 percentage point, according to Planning Minister A.H.M. Mustafa Kamal.

Bangladesh has conferred with the Chinese embassy in Dhaka on loans for other rail lines too, including a $4 billion dual track from Dhaka to Chittagong, the largest single railway project in the country.

Boosting Investment

Bangladesh’s gross domestic product has been growing at a rate of more than 6 percent a year since 2010, helping lift millions from poverty. Raising the investment rate to 34 percent of GDP, from 25 percent now, could see the pace of economic expansion accelerate to 8 percent, according to a study by Sadiq Ahmed, vice chairman of Dhaka-based Policy Research Institute.

China’s success in the country has been supported by Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, who advised the ministry’s Economic Relations Division to accept Chinese loans for one of the rail projects, according to a letter seen by Bloomberg.

It’s part of a 20-year master plan by Bangladesh to spend 2.34 trillion taka on 235 railway projects through 2030. The country has 2,877 kilometers worth of railroads and aims to add another 375 kilometers by the end of this year.

Still, it’s not all plain sailing for China. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “one belt, one road” trade and investment strategy has met resistance from governments wary of China’s growing influence.

China Rejected

In Thailand, China recently failed in an effort to help build and finance a rail line from Bangkok to the northeastern city of Nong Khai, near Laos. The Thai government balked at China’s request to develop commercial property along the planned line.

Bangladesh Rail passengers on trainEven in Bangladesh, there have been setbacks for Beijing. China Railway Group signed a 2014 memorandum to build a 129-kilometer railroad from Dohazari to Gundum, near the border with Myanmar, via the tourist district of Cox’s Bazar, which boasts Asia’s longest continuous sand beach. Funding for that project now looks set to go to the Manila-based Asian Development Bank, long controlled by Japan and the U.S.

The ADB says it has an agreement in principle to provide three-quarters of the cost, or $1.5 billion, at a variable rate tied to the six-month Libor rate.

Bangladesh “is trying to ensure it does not give too much to one single party or nation,” said Khondaker Golam Moazzem, head of research at the Dhaka-based Centre for Policy Dialogue.

Saifuddin Ahmed, a joint secretary of Bangladesh’s Economic Relations Division, who handles ADB loans, declined to comment on why the government decided against China’s bid for the project. Even with ADB funding, Chinese companies could still be involved in the line’s construction.

Bangladesh Rail passengers on train on id specialIn many cases, China’s deep pockets and willingness to take on risky projects is helping it displace Japan as Asia’s major development-assistance provider.

China Communications Construction Co. last year won a contract to build a 3.4-kilometer tunnel under the Karnaphuli River in Chittagong — part of a $1.1 billion road project in the nation’s largest port, financed with Chinese soft loans.

“China is out-competing Japan, especially in the least developed markets in Asia, in places like Bangladesh and Cambodia,” said Tony Nash, Singapore-based chief economist at Complete Intelligence, which advises companies and institutions on Asia. “The Japanese have had to re-examine their competitiveness in terms of their financing and their whole approach.”

RCF Coaches supplied to Bangladesh can run upto 160 Kmph: RITES Ltd.

New Delhi: RITES, a PSU under rail ministry, has supplied 60 broad gauge passenger coaches (LHB type) to Bangladesh Railway (BR) against a contract agreement of 120 coaches.

An intercity train with these Indian coaches was flagged off at Dhaka by Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina.

Two train sets, comprising 12 coaches each – 2 AC chair car, 2 first AC sleeper car, 6 non-AC chair car and 2 power car, will presently be deployed to operate 3 pairs of inter-city trains between Dhaka and Rajshahi.

An official said these modern stainless steel coaches manufactured by Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala, are equipped with Fiat bogies capable of running at maximum speed of 160 kmph.

RITES had earlier supplied 26 broad gauge diesel electric locomotives (3100 HP) manufactured by Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi which are successfully running broad gauge trains of Bangladesh Railway.

CMD RITES Rajeev Mehrotra said that RITES is making all efforts to augment export of rolling stock manufactured at Indian Railways Production Units. Response from South Asian markets is very encouraging, he added.

Rail Coaches built by India under the Line of Credit to arrive Dhaka by Dec: High Commission

Dhaka: All passenger coaches for the Bangladesh railway under the Indian line of credit will arrive in Dhaka by December. The Indian High Commission in Dhaka also said among total 120 coaches, 60 already arrived.

Bangladesh and India signed the first-ever line of credit pegged at $1 billion in 2010, but India later converted $200 million of the loan money into grants.

It was the largest ever one-time assistance offered by India to any country.

The Indian High Commission says the Silk City express will have 12 coaches consisting of two AC chair cars (78 seats each), two first AC coaches (24 berths each), six non-AC chair-cars (105 seats each) and two generator cars.

The new coaches have aluminium bodies, German LHB technology, and FIAT bogey with disc brakes. The AC coaches have 15 Ton ACs and the non-ac coaches have 36 fans in each.

There is a pantry in AC and Non AC chair cars for passengers’ convenience. The coaches have been built in India’ railway coach factory in Kapurthala, Punjab.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday launched a new train—‘Sonar Bangla Express’—between Dhaka and Chittagong.

She also re-launched the Silk City express between Dhaka and Rajshahi with newly built Indian coaches. Indian High Commissioner Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Additional Secretary & Finance and Financial Advisor of the Ministry of External Affairs Sumith Jerath also attended the programme, among others.

Bangladesh PM upbeat about launching Electric Train

PM Sheik Hasina inaugurates elec train
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday inaugurates a new train Sonar Bangla Express on the Dhaka-Chittagong route

Dhaka: Expressing high hopes of launching high-speed electric trains and underground trains in Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said a feasibility study for underground trains is currently in progress.

“Steps have been taken to introduce a high-speed express train on Dhaka-Chittagong route while a feasibility study is underway to introduce underground trains in the country,” she said.

The prime minister said this while inaugurating a new inter-city train “Sonar Bangla Express” on Dhaka-Chittagong route at Kamlapur Railway Station.

Sheikh Hasina said her government has undertaken massive programmes for the development of Bangladesh Railway under Vision 2021 and established a separate ministry to give special attention to it.

She reiterated her firm resolve to bring all the districts of the country, including Barisal, under railway network.

Hasina said yesterday was a special day for the Railways Ministry as a new intercity train — Sonar Bangla Express — has been introduced on Dhaka -Chittagong route, while the existing Silk City Train on Dhaka-Rajshahi route has been upgraded with new coaches.

The prime minister said the introduction of a new train and addition of new coaches will help ensure quick and comfortable journeys of passengers.

She mentioned that the Pakistani occupation forces destroyed a huge number of railway bridges and rail tracks during the Liberation War in 1971. But soon after the independence, the Bangabandhu government restored railway communications repairing those bridges and rail tracks at the earliest.

The post-1975 governments did not make any development of the railway sector, rather they closed many rail routes turning the railway as a losing concern, she added.

The prime minister said her government, after assuming office in 2009, has approved 55 new projects costing over Tk62,890 crore and 45 amended projects with the cost of Tk42,601 crore.

So far, 98 new trains have been introduced while services of 26 trains have been improved, she said.

The prime minister said the government has undertaken various projects, including the establishment of railway links on Padma Bridge, new rail lines on Dohazi-Gundum section, double line on Dhaka-Chittagong route, second Bangabandhu Railway Bridge on the Jamuna River, and rail tracks from Khulna to Mongla.

Hasina directed the Railways Ministry to renovate the monument built in memory of railway officials and employees who laid down their lives during the Liberation War and write the names of the martyrs on it.

LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain, Housing and Public Works Minister Engineer Mosharraf Hossain, Railways Minister Mazibul Hoque, Secretary of the Railways Ministry Firoz Salauddin and Director General of Bangladesh Railway M Amjad Hossain also spoke on the occasion.

Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon, Dhaka mayors Annisul Haque and Sayeed Khokon, Chief of Bangladesh Army Staff General Abu Belal Muhammad Shafiul Huq, Indian High Commissioner in Bangladesh Harsh Vardhan Shringla were also present, among others.

The train services were introduced with the newly procured carriers from Indonesia and India. Bangladesh Railway procured 100 meter-gauge and 170 broad-gauge rail coaches with financial support from the Asian Development Bank and Indian Line of Credit.

Sonar Bangla Express will have only one stoppage at Airport Station in the capital, and will travel from Dhaka to the port city in five hours and 40 minutes. The first nonstop train Subarna Express started operation on Dhaka-Chittagong route in 1998.

Bangladeshi PM launches Metro Rail Work in Dhaka

Dhaka Metro Rail inaugDhaka: Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday inaugurated construction work for the country’s first Metro rail service in Dhaka, through a video conference Sunday from a function in Dhaka’s Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.

The first 11 km of the $2.5 billion project, which is expected to transport 60,000 passengers an hour, would be completed by 2019 and 4.4 km by 2020, Xinhua news agency reported.

An official earlier said the overhead construction of Metro line can help the Bangladeshi government’s efforts to ease traffic gridlock in Dhaka which has only 436 km of four-lane and 1,408 km of two-lane roads.

Dhaka has been experiencing severe traffic jams, creating untold suffering for commuters.

In the first phase of the 2.5 billion U.S. dollars project, 11 kilometers would be completed by 2019 and 4.4 kilometers by 2020.

The remaining 4.7 kilometers was expected to be completed by 2022.

An official had earlier said the overhead construction of metro rail can help the Bangladeshi government’s efforts to ease traffic gridlock in Dhaka which has only 436 km of 4-lane roads and 1,408 km of 2-lane roads.

Dhaka has been experiencing severe traffic jams, creating untold suffering for commuters. It is apprehended that traffic jam would be worsening in the future if steps are not taken immediately to ease the situation.

Hasina said: “The metro rail is being constructed to ease the general people’s traffic hassle and to modernise the transportation system.”

“With the construction of the metro rail, around 60,000 people will be able to travel from Uttara to Motijheel in just 38 minutes.”

Dhaka Metro RailIn the first phase, metro rail will be opened for the passengers travelling from Uttara to Agargaon in 2019 while the rest [Uttara to Motijheel] will be opened in 2020.

The prime minister also suggested to extend the work of the first phase from Uttara to Farmgate as it would benefit the public more.

Metro Rail is the third biggest government infrastructure project underway, after the Padma Bridge and Padma rail track project. The elevated railway promises to relieve the city’s growing traffic problems.

The MRT project will be constructed under the supervision of Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Company. The project is being funded by both the government and Japan International Cooperative Agency (Jica) – Jica is contributing Tk16,594.59 crore to the project, while the government is paying Tk5,390.48 crore.

When complete and in operation, the MRT stations will see a train come every 3.5 minutes, and it will take 37 minutes for a train to cover the distance between Motijheel and Uttara.

The BRT project is a dedicated bus lane which will be constructed between Dhaka and Gazipur on the existing six-lane highway.

Once complete, 100 articulated buses will run on the BRT route. Passengers will be required to use a smart card to use the service.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be around Tk2,040 crore, Tk1,650 crore of which will provided by the Asian Development Bank, French Development Agency, and Global Environmental Facility Fund. The rest will be provided by the government.

Construction phase of Metro Rail

The proposed elevated metro rail connecting the two ends of the capital is indeed a welcome move. This will greatly ease movement of commuters across the city as it will the traffic congestion. The government should be complimented for taking up the much needed alternative mode of travel within the city for the greater portion of the general public who are dependent on public transport.

The project is expected to take between three and four years to be completed and we would like to express our concern regarding the attendant problem of such projects. The inevitable consequence of the construction is the disruption of traffic all along the route of the project. It has been our sorry experience that building of flyovers, over-bridges and loops in the capital were started without arranging alternative traffic plans, as is done in other countries. The Mouchak-Moghbazar flyover is a classic example of the level of distress public has to endure without a workable substitute provision for the movement of vehicles during the period of construction. With undue time overrun, the problem was even more compounded.

We would not like to see the public put through the same experience with people left to their own devices and the authorities hoping that the problem would take care of itself. The planners should be aware that this is not just another flyover. It covers a distance of 20 kilometres and goes over major conurbations. This being a multi billion dollar project, investing a fraction of it to ensure unrestricted movement of traffic along the length of the under construction metro rail will be worth the money.

Indonesian PT INKA to expand exports of Railway cars to Egypt

PT INKA LocoJakarta:  Indonesian state-owned PT Industri Kereta Api Indonesia (PT INKA) is preparing to expand its exports of railway cars to Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Egypt, according to its president director, Agus H Purnomo.

“After Bangladesh, INKA is now targeting several other countries in Asia and the Middle East. We are ready to penetrate Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Egypt,” he said in a press release issued here on Saturday.

He said the move was taken following its success in meeting Bangladeshs order of passenger cars.

He said in 2015 the company had received a contract to supply 150 railway cars to Bangladesh, which was immediately carried out and their delivery is expected to be completed before the end of this year.

In the bidding process PT INKA was able to beat several rivals from China.

The railway cars that have been ordered are divided into two types with the first totaling 100 unit is a meter gauge (MG) type (for use with 1000 mm tracks) and 50 Broad Gauge (BG) carriages (for use in 1676 mm tracks).

The MG type has a 2+2 seat arrangement with two-seat rows on the left and right side and an aisle in the middle while the BG type has a 2+3 arrangement.

“The operation of the INKA-made cars in Bangladesh was officially launched personally by prime minister Hasina Wajed on Saturday (June 25). The train carrying the cars named Sonar Bangla Express serves the route from Dhaka to Citagong,” he said.

“INKA deserves pride as its cars have been used in Bangladesh. So, now we will prepare to enter other countries,” he said.

India keen to connect to SAARC Nations with more Rail links

India, which already has direct train service with Bangladesh, has also announced two new routes. The two countries are currently operating Maitree Express between Kolkata and Dhaka

(File Picture) - Earlier, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) have agreed to begin discussions on the possibility of having a BBIN Rail Agreement drawing on the draft SAARC Regional Rail Agreement
(File Picture) – Earlier, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) have agreed to begin discussions on the possibility of having a BBIN Rail Agreement drawing on the draft SAARC Regional Rail Agreement

New Delhi: After the India-Myanmar-Thailand road link, the government is considering seamless rail connectivity with SAARC nations. The Indian Railways is considering rail links from India to Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The most prominent is the Indo-Myanmar rail route for which railways plan to connect Jiribam in India to Kalay/Mandalay in Myanmar.

A senior railway ministry official said studies are being conducted on setting up at least five rail routes between India and Nepal while feasibility of another route is being examined between India and Bhutan. India, which already has direct train service with Bangladesh, has also announced two new routes. The two countries are currently operating Maitree Express between Kolkata and Dhaka.

Approval for signing and ratifying SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Regional Railways Agreement

Officials said initial work has started on rail projects from Tripura to Akhaura in Bangladesh and Haldibari in India to Bangladesh International Border. While the first project was announced in 2012-13, the latter was sanctioned in rail budget 2016-17. The projects are, however, subject to requisite government approvals in both countries.

“A feasibility study was done in 2005 by Indian Railway through its engineering consultant RITES for a link from Jiribam to Kalay/Mandalay in Myanmar. The Jiribam – Imphal section (125km) which falls within Indian territory has been sanctioned and construction work taken up. Remaining portions from Imphal to Moreh (111km) within India and from Tamu to Kalay (128km) in Myanmar have not been sanctioned,” said a railway board official.

India is also seeking rail routes to Bhutan and Nepal. While a small link between Raxaul in Bihar and Birganj in Nepal is operational, railway officials said four new routes could be explored between the two countries. At present, Nepal does not have a rail network. However, meter gauge lines exist in some parts of the plains or terai region in Nepal.

Geographical advantage

Officials said India has a geographical advantage that its northern plains connect seamlessly to Nepal’s terai region. Also, many railway stations like Jaynagar, Jogbani in Bihar and Sonauli, Rupaidiha in Uttar Pradesh are located very close to Nepal border. Railway lines from these stations can be extended up to Nepal for better connectivity.

It may be noted that China has also announced constructing rail corridor to Nepal via Tibet. The connection, according to Chinese media reports, could include a tunnel under the Everest. It is to be an extension of the Qinghai-Tibet railway that links China with the Tibetan capital.

Meanwhile, officials said India was also keen on reviving the railway link connecting India and Bhutan announced in 2008. The Nehru Golden Jubliee Railway Link was proposed as 18-km link connecting Hashimara in West Bengal to Toribari in Bhutan. RITES was asked to prepare the project report with assistance from Northeastern Frontier (NF) Railways but the consultancy firm failed to complete the survey work.

Earlier on 20th November, 2014, the Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, approved signing and ratifying the SAARC Regional Railways Agreement by India, as a member State of SAARC.

SAARC region is considered one of the least networked regions in terms of physical and soft connectivity leading to high costs and low volumes of trade recognizing which the leaders of the SAARC countries agreed that better transport infrastructure and linkages among the SAARC countries was necessary. A study viz. the SAARC Regional Multi Modal Transport Study (SRMTS) of 2005 undertaken by SAARC Secretariat had recommended multilateral agreements permitting free movement of people, goods and services within SAARC region in the Road and Rail sector and this was endorsed by the SAARC countries in the Summit level and Transport Ministers meetings. Accordingly, the Regional Rail Agreement (RRA) was drafted by India for SAARC countries in 2008. Since then, the draft Agreement has been discussed in the three meetings of the Expert Group on Regional Rail Agreement and in the meetings of Inter-Governmental Group on Transport (IGGT) and the text of the Agreement proposed now for signature was finalized in the 5th IGGT held in New Delhi on 30th September, 2014.

The SAARC Regional Railways Agreement will strengthen transport connectivity in the SAARC Region. Strengthened rail and transport connectivity will not only provide stimulus to the economic development in the region as a whole but also promote social and cultural contact and encourage tourism amongst the Member States. The Regional Rail Agreement will also enable low cost, energy efficient and environmentally sustainable transportation in the SAARC region and provide trade and economic links for the land locked countries and semi isolated regions.

Pakistan Railways evolves plan to induct 281 Locomotives in 8 years

Islamabad: Due to sheer negligence of Railway authorities more than 163 locomotive of Pakistan Railways (PR) become redundant, while on the other hand Pakistan Railways has worked out a plan to purchase 281 locomotives in the next 8 years.

Under the plan loco motives having capacity ranging between 2000 to 4000 Horse Power (HP) will be purchased that include 161 locomotives of 4000 HP capacity, 75 of 3000 HP and 45 of 2000 HP will be purchased among these 281 locomotives.

Pakistan Railways will purchase 55 locomotives of 4000 HP during 2016-17, 20 locomotives of 2000 HP and 6 locomotives of 4000 HP during 2017-18, 35 locomotives of 4000 HP, 25 locomotives of 3000 HP, 10 locomotives of 2000 HP during 2018-19, 25 locomotives of 4000 HP will be purchased during 2019-20.

As many as 25 locomotives of 4000 HP will be inducted in Railways during 2020-21, 15 locomotives of 4000 HP, 15 locomotives of 2000 HP during 2021-22, 25 locomotives of 3000 HP during 2022-23 and 25 of 3000 HP will be inducted in railways during 2023-24.

Contract agreement for purchase of 55 locomotives of 4000 HP has been signed with GE Company of USA while international tender has been floated for purchase of 20 D.E Locomotives of 2000 HP. Likewise PC-1 for purchase of 6 locomotives of 4000 HP has been sent for approval. Revised PC-1 in respect of 150 locomotives has been approved.

The documents reflected that Pakistan Railways is having 443 engines of 1500-3000 HP capacity presently and 280 among them are functional and 163 are non-functional. More 185 engines will complete their life and become redundant in next 4 years. 76 locomotives out of 443 locomotives have been purchased from GE company, 114 General Motors,, 69 Hitachi, 52 ALCO (USA), 69 Dalian (China) and 63 have been purchased from Ziyang (China).

SAARC Regional Railway Agreement linking Bangladesh, Bhutan, India & Nepal (BBIN) on Cards: Director-Transport, Railway Board

Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma addresses the meet in Shillong on Monday
Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma addresses the meet in Shillong on Monday

Shillong: A connectivity pact, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Railway Agreement, is being explored while India is expanding railway links with its neighbours through the Northeast.

Delivering an address at the two-day Economic Cooperation Dialogue in Eastern South Asia here, Director (Transport) of the Railway Board, Mukul Kumar, said while this network is being explored, the draft of the SAARC Regional Railway Agreement is being finalised at the SAARC forum.

The dialogue has been jointly organised by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the Meghalaya government and the North Eastern Council. Delegates from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal and the northeastern states are taking part in the programme.

Kumar said the objectives of the Regional Railway Agreement include facilitation of cross-border transportation of goods and people and facilitation of an efficient multi-modal transport system for integration and sustaining the economic growth and competitiveness of the region.

The other objectives include furtherance of economic integration of the region and implementation of the relevant portions of the agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area.

For connectivity with Bangladesh, he said the Agartala-Akhaura New Line (Trans-Asian railways missing link) is undertaken while with Nepal two projects – Jogbani-Biratnagar link and Jayanagar-Bijalpura gauge conversion to Bardibas have been sanctioned.

The likely date of completion of the 15km Akhaura-Agartala railway project is 2018-19.

For the Jogbani (India)-Biratnagar (Nepal) new line project of 18.6km, the period for completion is two years on receipt of encumbrance-free land.

Moreover, Kumar said the missing rail link between India and Myanmar is from Jiribam-Moreh (Indian side) and Tamu-Kaley (Myanmar portion). The alignment is also part of the southern corridor of the Trans-Asian Railway network, he said.

He said Indian Railways has undertaken the new 110km line project between Jiribam and Imphal while it is surveying the remaining portion of the missing 111km link between Imphal and Moreh. Kumar said for connectivity with Myanmar, the Jiribam-Imphal new link is under construction and a survey has been undertaken for linking Imphal-Moreh. This link, he said will connect Indian Railways with Myanmar Railways in future.

Moreover, he said the UN-ESCAP-Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad container train service is already operational, and there is a proposal to extend the same to Calcutta and Dhaka, which could then make the South Asian region a major trade hub.

Kumar said the key challenges in cross-border railway transport include congestion and delays at border stations, complex border-crossing procedures and lack of harmonisation in the documents required for different countries, different operating rules and tariff structures, lack of qualified manpower to operate cross-border trains and others.

The BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal and Cargo Vehicular Traffic among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Myanmar was signed in June 2015.

The agreement envisages promoting safe, economical efficient and environmentally sound road transport in the sub-region and will further help each country in creating an institutional mechanism for regional integration. BBIN countries will benefit from mutual cross-border movement of passenger and goods for overall economic development of the region.

The people of the four countries will benefit through seamless movement of goods and passenger across borders.

As far as railway projects being undertaken in the Northeast are concerned, Kumar said there are 18 ongoing projects in the region covering 2,254km.

The likely date of completion of most of the projects ranges from 2016-17 to 2019-2020.

Indonesia exports Railway Carriages to Bangladesh

Indonesia Railway CarriagesSurabaya: Indonesia’s Finance Minister Bambang P.S. Brodjonegoro led a symbolic release ceremony marking the export of 150 units of passenger wains (wagon or cart) made by PT Industri Kereta Api (INKA) to Bangladesh at the pier of Jamrud Utara, Tanjung Perak port, on Thursday.

“We are really proud of the export of our railway carriage. It is expected to continue and expand to other countries,” he noted.

During the first stage of the export, Indonesia had sent 15 units of the railway carriages and the rest are expected to arrive in Bangladesh at the end of the year.

According to Bambang, the export of railway carriages will prove PT INKAs capability as a state-owned company, to internationally compete and seize buyers from countries, which are not considered as Indonesias trading partner.

Meanwhile, the President Director of PT INKA, R. Agus H. Purnomo, pegged the export value of the 150 units of carriage at as much as US$72.3 million.

The export of passenger trains to Bangladesh Railway, he said, had become an important momentum for his company to win more international tenders.

“It has proved that our production of railway carriages have been internationally recognized and have successfully penetrated the world market,” he noted.

“Export of railroad cars are very proud and the future is expected to continue, and even export to other countries,” said Minister Bambang on the sidelines welcome the release of export railway carriages in Surabaya, as reported by Antara on Thursday (31/3).

in this first stage the release of exports shipped 15 units carriages and targeted the entire unit to arrive in Bangladesh by the end of 2016.

According to him, export railway carriage is evidence of PT INKA as the state that is able to compete and reach buyers from countries other than Indonesia’s trading partners. “PT INKA able to prove that Indonesia could export railway carriage, and shows that it is now necessary export products and new export destinations,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Director of PT INKA R. H. Agus Purnomo explained that the value of exports to 150 units of passenger railway carriages of USD 72.3 million. Delivery train passengers who booked ‘Bangladesh Railway’, he said, became an important momentum for PT INKA to encourage efforts to win international tender next.

“The export carriages proved that the production of PT INKA has been recognized at the level of international and successfully penetrate the world export market, “he said.

Also present at the occasion, Minister for Trade Thomas Trikasih Lembong, Minister of Administrative Reform and Bureaucratic Reform Yuddy Chrisnandi, East Java governor and a number of directors of SOEs.

Trial Run of Rail Coaches imported from India starts in Bangladesh

Saidpur Railway Workshop BangladeshDhaka: The Bangladesh Railway authorities have started trial and experimental run of railway coaches imported from India between Syedpur and Nilphamari railway stations, on daily basis for testing and inspection purposes.

The first consignment of new Broad Gauge passenger railway coaches reached Syedpur Railway workshop early this week.

The Bangladesh government had contracted to import 120 railway passenger coaches from India out of which 20 coaches reached Syedpur Railway workshop.

Sources said the coaches would be tested by the technicians of the workshop.

The Workshop sources at Syedpur said Indian experts would also join in the trial and examination and reexamination of the imported coaches. After trial run the coaches would be handed over to traffic division of the railway to be added to the intercity trains.

Railways yet to get ‘Green Signal’ for Lahore meeting between India & Pakistan

Lahore Railway StationFirozpur: While clearance to the Pakistan team to investigate the terrorist attack at Pathankot has been accorded, the authorities from railways of both the countries – India and Pakistan- are yet to get clearance for meeting scheduled for March 29 at Lahore.

It was perhaps the first meeting between both the countries for which a blue print was prepared during the visit of PM Modi on December 25, 2015.

All preparations by officials of Indian railways have been prepared for the meeting awaiting clearance communication from the other end, sources said.

DRM Ferozepur Division, Anuj Parkash, could not be contacted as he was away to Delhi in connection with pre discussions with the senior officers with regard the meeting scheduled for March 29. However, PRO Santosh Tiwari confirmed about non-receipt of clearance for the meeting.

In fact, railway is playing a vital role in maintaining the relations between the two countries with the introduction of Samjhauta Express from Attari.

The issues to be taken up in the meeting relating to railways were delay in running of express and goods trains, security, check over drug smuggling, to stop electrical wastage, to reduce documentation, return of parts given for maintenance for Indian railways, exchange of railway land record at the time of partition of India and Pakistan etc.

Earlier, the meeting between the countries used to be at the zero line near the Attari railway station (Amritsar), which has not taken place with unknown reasons for the last three years despite the fact that during 2015, railway officials from Indian side had gone for the meeting at the zero line but due to technical formalities, it could not be held.

China-Nepal Rail link can be extended to India: Chinese experts

Extending the rail line with building technologies available today, will not be a big problem, Wang Dehua, director of Institute of Southern and Central Asian Studies said.

China-Nepal RailAs China plans to extend its Tibet railway network to Nepal, Chinese experts say the project which may cost about $4 billion (nearly Rs 26,611 crore) could be extended to India as well to improve Tibet’s interconnectivity with South Asia.

“Building the rail line may encounter many difficulties as it will pass the seismic zone and the Himalayan mountains.

However, given the current technologies, it will not be a big problem,” Wang Dehua, director of the Institute for Southern and Central Asian Studies at the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies said.

Atleast $4 billion is needed for the project and is expected to be completed within five years, Wang told state- run Global Times.

“The rail link could be a very good opportunity for the country to connect to India and would enhance bilateral relations,” he added.

The Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli in his meeting with Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang on Monday has asked for Chinese help to build a monorail in Kathmandu and a railway line from the Tibetan border town Gyirong to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, Oli’s foreign affairs advisor, Gopal Khanal has been quoted as saying by Japan’s Kyodo news agency.

“The two sides have also agreed on building railways in Nepal,” he said.

Hou Yanqi, deputy head of the Chinese foreign ministry’s Asia Division, told the media after Li-Oli meeting that the government would encourage Chinese firms to look at the internal rail plan to extend the rail network to Nepal.

China was already planning to extend the railway from the Tibetan city of Xigaze to Gyirong on the Nepali border, she said.

Zhao Gancheng, director of South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies told Global Times that the railway may lessen Nepal’s dependence on India but does not mean that China is trying to compete with India for influence on Nepal.

After the Oli-Li meeting, the two countries signed 10 agreements including the transit treaty which would provide an additional avenue for land-locked Nepal for import and export of materials which are currently conducted through Kolkata port.

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?

ADB to fund US$1.5 bn for Bangladesh-Myanmar Railway network

ADBThe Asian Development Bank (ADB) will fund US$1.5 billion to build a rail line that will connect Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh’s southeastern beach resort, to neighboring Myanmar as part of a larger Trans-Asian Railway network, reported the Indian Business Standard newspaper.

On a report released on February 19, Head of Bangladesh Economic Relations Division (ERD) Saifuddin Ahmed said that the ADB has been prioritizing Bangladesh ‘s policy for development through regional connectivity.

The project under the Trans-Asian Railway corridor will set up rail links with Myanmar . The ADB wants to fund it because of its tremendous prospect, he said, adding that the bank has agreed to give US$1.5 billion in loan at two percent interest.

Some 100 km of rail lines will connect Bangladesh with Myanmar through the Ghumdhum border. Bangladesh has a 300 km-border with Myanmar and the country expects to connect by road and rail with Kunming in China through Myanmar .

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2011 opened construction work on the rail line but it has been on hold until now due to lack of funds.

Rail link talks in 3-day Indo-Bangla border meet

India-BD-Border-TalkSilchar: The three-day Indo-Bangla deputy commissioner-level meet laid stress on the commencement of railway service between the two countries.

Cachar deputy commissioner S. Viswanathan, who led the delegation from India, told reporters here this evening that they had discussed thoroughly about the commencement of railway service from Shahbazpur in Bangladesh to Mohisasan in Karimganj district of Assam.

Deputy commissioners of the two bordering districts of Cachar and Karimganj, Viswanathan and Sanjib Gohain Baruah respectively, and superintendents of police Rajveer Singh (Cachar) and Pradip Ranjan Kar (Karimganj), along with other district officials, held a meeting with their counterparts from two Bangladesh districts, Moulavi Bazar and Sylhet, from November 28 to 30 in the neighbouring country.

“Bangladesh officials said a railway line is being constructed from Kulaura to Shahbazpur. A proposal has been made in the meeting to connect Shahbazpur with Karimganj via railway line,” Viswanathan added.

He said there was a discussion on opening of two border haats, one at Sutarkandi in Karimganj district and Nij Lepurputa in Cachar district, soon. “The border haat near Sutarkandi integrated checkpost will materialise soon, while some time is required to implement the Nij Lepurputa one,” he said.

A host of issues, including cross-border crimes, drugs, smuggling, cattle-lifting, trafficking, integrated checkposts to improve import-export facilities, flood control measures, border haats, cultural and sports exchange, border pillars, protection of migratory elephants and river dolphins, commencement of railway service, among others were discussed.

The commanding officers of the BSF and Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) were also present at the meeting. Repatriation of Bangladeshi nationals from India was one of the main issues discussed in the meeting. Viswanathan said they had handed over information to the Bangladesh officials of all the 35 Bangladeshi nationals who are lodged in Silchar Central Jail even after the completion of their sentences. In reply to a question, Viswanathan said two Indian nationals were also lodged in a Bangladesh jail. “Bangladeshi citizens, who have completed their sentences, can be easily repatriated with efforts from both sides. We have taken the initiative to bring back Indian nationals who are in Bangladesh jail,” he added. The Indian delegation comprised eight members, while its Bangladeshi counterparts comprised 11 members, including deputy commissioners of Moulavi Bazar and Sylhet – Md Kamal Hassan and Joynal Abedin respectively.

Railway Ministry assures funds for India-Bangladesh Rail project

New Delhi: Funding would not be a problem for the new India-Bangladesh railway project along Tripura and once completed it would provide a major boost to the region’s development and economy, union Minister Jitendra Singh said here on Friday.

“Funds will not be a major problem for the Agartala-Akhaura railway project. The project will boost Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Act East’ policy,” the minister of state for the development of north eastern region (DoNER) told reporters.

“Completion of the new rail link with Bangladesh and conversion of the metre gauge track up to Agartala (Tripura capital) would give a major boost to region’s development and economy, besides improving connectivity with neighbouring countries,” he said. Singh, who arrived here on Friday on a two-day visit, held meetings with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and discussed various ongoing projects of DoNER ministry in the north-eastern state.

Five years after the Rs.575-crore India-Bangladesh railway project along Tripura was finalised by the governments of the two countries, uncertainty prevails since no funds have been allocated so far.

The project was finalised in January 2010 when Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met her then Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh during her visit to New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the project with Hasina during his visit to Dhaka in June.

Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) general manager R.K. Gupta told reporters here on Sunday that it was not certain when the work on the India-Bangladesh rail project would begin.

“No funds have been allocated so far for the Agartala-Akhaura project. We will begin work immediately after the sanction of funds,” said Gupta, who visited Tripura to supervise ongoing railway projects in the state.

“Earlier, the DoNER ministry committed to provide funds to lay tracks on the Indian side. But recently, it categorically expressed its inability to give funds. The railway ministry was earlier considering providing funds for the Tripura part of the project, but has not taken a final decision yet,” an NFR official said.

Uncertainty persists over India-Bangla Rail project as DoNER Ministry yet to allocate Funds

Agartala: Five years after the plan for an India-Bangladesh railway network was approved, uncertainty persists over the project as no funds have been allocated yet, authorities said.

“It is not certain when the work for the project would start. No funds have been allocated so far for the Agartala (India)-Akhaura (Bangladesh) railway project,” Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) general manager R.K. Gupta told reporters here on Sunday evening.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said: “No funds were also allocated for land acquisition for the railway project. We would start work immediately after the sanction of funds.”

The Rs.575-crore project was finalised in January 2010 when Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh during her visit to New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina discussed the project again during Modi’s visit to Dhaka on June 6-7 this year.

India announced it would bear the entire cost of the 15-km long railway project. Of the 15 km, five km fall in the Indian territory and the rest 10 km in Bangladesh.

“NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog had decided in a meeting in Delhi on June 18 to put in place the vital railway project between India and Bangladesh by December 2017,” Tripura transport secretary Samarjit Bhowmik told.

Bhowmik, who attended the NITI Aayog meeting, said: “The alignment and other technicalities of laying the track to link Agartala railway station with Bangladesh’s Akhaura railway station have been changed recently. A final report on the new alignment was also submitted for sanction of funds.”

NITI Aayog’s advisor Animesh Singh presided over the meeting in New Delhi, where officials of ministries of railways, development of north-eastern region (DoNER), external affairs and the Tripura government participated.

Bhowmik said that India’s external affairs ministry earlier announced it would provide funds to lay the tracks in the Bangladesh territory.

Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey also held a meeting with Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in New Delhi on September 23 and urged him to expedite the issues related to the project.

“The railway minister told me that he would personally talk to the Railway Board and external affairs ministry about the funding of the project,” Dey told IANS on Monday.

The project cost was earlier estimated at Rs.271 crore. In addition, Rs.302 crore was needed to acquire around 97.60 acres of land in India’s Tripura for laying the tracks.

“After the latest alignment of the project, now 72 acres of land would be required. Hence, the funds required would be reduced to Rs.98 crore from Rs.302 crore,” Dey added.

“Earlier, the DoNER ministry committed to provide funds to lay tracks on the Indian side. But recently the DoNER ministry categorically expressed its inability to give funds. Railway ministry was considering providing funds for the Tripura part of the project, but has not yet taken a final decision,” an NFR official said.

State-owned Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) is expected to lay the tracks on both sides of the border. The NFR is the nodal agency for the project.

“The railway connectivity between the north-eastern state and Bangladesh would boost socio-economic, trade and business ties between the two countries. After the commissioning of the railway project, Tripura would act as a corridor to the South-East Asian countries,” Dey said.

Dey told IANS: “It would become cost-effective to ferry men and materials between the two countries, and between the mountainous north-east region and other parts of India via Bangladesh once the railway project is completed.”

The 1,650-km distance between Agartala and Kolkata would be reduced to only 515 km once the rail track is constructed through Bangladesh, he added.

BARSYL signs Consultancy Agreement with Bangladesh Railways

Contract signing by Mr. M Mozammel Haque General Manager, (East) BR and Mr. Tapan Ghosh, Corporate Head (Commercial) BARSYL witnessed by Mr. Sunil Srivastava, MD, BARSYL. Standing (L to R) Secretary, Ministry of Railway, GoB Mr. Feroz Salauddin, High Commissioner  of India in Bangladesh H.E. Pankaj Saran, Hon'ble Minister of Railways GoB Mr. M. Mujibul Haque and Director General, Bangladesh Railways, Md. Amjad Hussain.
Contract signing by Mr. M Mozammel Haque General Manager, (East) BR and Mr. Tapan Ghosh, Corporate Head (Commercial) BARSYL witnessed by Mr. Sunil Srivastava, MD, BARSYL. Standing (L to R) Secretary, Ministry of Railway, GoB Mr. Feroz Salauddin, High Commissioner of India in Bangladesh H.E. Pankaj Saran, Hon’ble Minister of Railways GoB Mr. M. Mujibul Haque and Director General, Bangladesh Railways, Md. Amjad Hussain

Hyderabad: Bangladesh Railway (BR) awarded the Contract for Detailed Design & Construction Supervision Services for Rehabilitation of Kulaura‒Shahbazpur line of Bangladesh Railway. The Contract Agreement between the Bangladesh Railways and Balaji Railroad Systems Limited (BARSYL), was signed on 13 August 2015 in Dhaka.

The Design and Supervision contract is valued at Rs.20.00 crores and is planned to be completed in 30 months. BARSYL has been working on various assignments of Bangladesh Railways for nearly 10 years now, but this is the largest assignment by value that has been awarded to BARSYL independently in Bangladesh.

The Government of Bangladesh has embarked upon a project for Rehabilitation of Kulaura‒Shahbazpur MG railway section with a view to establish regional connectivity with India. Kulaura‒Shahbazpur (Bangladesh)‒Mahishasan (India) rail link was established in 1910 and train operation after 1971 in Kulaura‒Shahbazpur section continued upto 06 July 2002. Due to repeated incidents of derailments,the Kulaura-Shahbazpur section was declared closed on 7 July, 2002. In recent times Bangladesh government has taken the initiative to gear up the Railway sector and this project is one of the integrated components of the development programme planned to revitalize Bangladesh Railways. The implementation cost of the Kulaura‒Shahbazpur section has been estimated at Rs.575 crore and will be implemented under financial assistance of Indian Line of Credit.

India sanctions Rs.1000 Crore for Agartala-Akhaura (Indo-Bangla) Rail project in the North East

Rail TrackAgartala (AGTL): The Centre has sanctioned Rs 1,000 crore for laying of 15.06 km long tracks to connect Indian Railways with Bangladesh through the North East. “We were informed by the Centre on Saturday that it has sanctioned Rs 580 crore for acquiring land and laying of five km long tracks on the Indian side,” state transport Secretary Samarjit Bhowmik said today.

The External Affairs Ministry had earlier sanctioned Rs 400 crore to Bangladesh for acquiring land and laying of about ten km long track on the Bangladesh side, he said. The project would be completed by 2017, Bhowmick said, adding, an elevated corridor would be constructed for covering 3.7 km length of the route.

He said, IRCON would construct the entire route and other works as it has experience of working in Bangladesh. The 15.06 km long track would connect Agartala with Akhaura railway junction in Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina discussed on the issue during the former’s visit to Dhaka on June 6-7 and India would fund the entire project, Bhowmick said.

State Transport minister Manik Dey said completion of the project would reduce the distance from Agartala to Kolkata from 1,650 km to 515 km and difficult hilly terrain could be avoided. “This will improve trade and commerce between Bangladesh and India’s North East and enhance people to people contact,” he added.

Transportation between India and Bangladesh:

Transportation between India and Bangladesh bears much historical and political significance for both countries, which possessed no ground transport links for 43 years, starting with the partition of Bengal and India in 1947. The Kolkata–Dhaka Bus (1999) and the Dhaka–Agartala Bus (2001) are the primary road links between the two countries; a direct Kolkata-Agartala running through Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh is being developed by both countries. The Maitreyi Express (Friendship Express) was launched to revive a railway link between Kolkata and Dhaka that had been shut for 43 years.

Background

The partition of Bengal and India on August 15, 1947 led to the establishment of the Indian state of West Bengal; East Bengal became a province of the state of Pakistan. The hostile bilateral relations between the two nations made transport links very limited, despite the cultural and commercial links between West and East Bengal. At the outbreak of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the only railway link between Dhaka and Kolkata was shut down, and not resumed until 2008 with the launch of the Maitreyi Express.

After the establishment of Bangladesh following the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, bilateral relations improved considerably, but the two governments moved slowly on implementing a 1980 agreement on improving transport links. In the 1990s, the Indian and Bangladeshi governments collaborated to open bus services betweenKolkata, the capital of West Bengal and one of the largest cities in India, and Dhaka, the capital and largest city of Bangladesh. In 2001, another bus service was launched to connect Dhaka with Agartala, the capital of the Indian state of Tripura the second largest city of Northeast India that borders Bangladesh in the east.

Akhaura-Agartala rail link

Indian and Bangladeshi governments will start work late by December or early by January 2015 on a new rail link to ease surface transport. India will build a 15-km railway tracks linking Tripura’s capital Agartala with Bangladesh’s southeastern city of Akhaura, an important railway junction connected to Chittagong port, resource-rich Sylhet and Dhaka. An agreement to implement the railway project was signed between India’s former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina during her visit to India in January 2010. Total cost of the proposed project is estimated at Rs.252 crore. The Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) would lay the new railway tracks on both sides of the border. Of the 15 km rail line, five km of tracks fall in the Indian territory. The NFR is now laying tracks to connect Tripura’s southern most border town Sabroom, 135 km south of here. From Sabroom, the Chittagong international sea port is just 72 km

Kolkata-Agartala link

Since the 1980s, the Indian and Bangladeshi governments have sought to negotiate an agreement permitting commercial vehicles to pass through Bangladeshi highways in order to reach the northeastern states of India from the west; a concept described in India as the “Bangla Corridor.” Such an arrangement is being promoted for its benefit to bilateral commerce, the transport cost reduction for Indian businesses and additional revenue for Bangladesh. In 2006, both governments began working on a proposal to provide a bus service directly connecting Kolkata with Agartala, the capital of the Indian state of Tripura, which borders eastern Bangladesh. As of 2007, travelling distance through Indian territory is an estimated 1,700 km (1,056 mi), but a direct road link via Dhaka would shorten the travelling distance to an estimated 400 km (249 mi), considerably reducing the costs of transport for Indian businesses, which have to transport goods and services through the narrow “Chicken’s Neck” territory that is bordered by northern Bangladesh and southern Nepal. However, such an arrangement has been politically sensitive in Bangladesh.

On June 2 2015, the first trial run of a direct bus between Kolkata and Agartala ran, a route distance of 500 km, as compared to the 1650 km if it ran through the Chicken’s Neck to remain within India. This bus made an overnight stop in Dhaka. General service began on June 7, and the first bus was flagged off by political leaders including Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, and Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Bannerjee.

Ailing Railway Minister of Bangladesh shifted to Singapore

Dhaka: The Railway Minister of Bangladesh Mr.Mazibul Hoque has been flown to Singapore for better treatment of the stomach ulcer and resultant internal bleeding he was suffering since last a week. The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the ministry Md Shariful Alam said the minister had been undergoing treatment at National University Hospital.

An air ambulance left Dhaka with the 68-year-old minister at 5am on Saturday. Hoque’s wife Honufa Akter Rikta and the Minister’s personal secretary and other team of doctors were accompanying him.

He had been taken to a Comilla hospital after having fallen sick on Thursday night before being transferred to Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Dhaka.

Ministry’s PRO Alam said the minister was suffering from stomach ulcer, diabetic and high blood pressure.

Earlier, the hospital’s Director Rois Abdur Rob said a unit of blood was transfused into Hoque to compensate for internal bleeding caused by stomach ulcer. He was later transferred to the CMH.

The minister Hoque hails from Chouddagram in Comilla. He got married last year.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, while exchanging Eid greeting at Ganabhaban, requested the people to pray for his recovery.

“The minister has fallen sick following the hard work he did to make the Eid journeys by railway hassle-free,” the Prime Minister of Bangladesh said.

India’s Union Minister of Railways Mr.Suresh Prabhu inquired about the health condition of his counterpart in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh-India rail link on fast track after PM intervention

New Delhi: After opening a direct bus route between Tripura and Bangladesh, the Centre has stepped in to lay a direct rail link between the land-locked state and Dhaka. Top sources told that Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped in to remove bottlenecks in the project.

The government will build a 15-km-long broad gauge rail line from Agartala to Akhaura, a city in south-east Bangladesh, which will give India’s northeastern states a key link to Chittagong ports and large markets in Sylhet and Dhaka.

The plan had almost come to a standstill after the Tripura government expressed its inability to pump state funds for the project. But after meetings between Modi and chief minister Manik Sarkar, the Indian Railways have decided to bear the cost.

“After its preliminary survey, the railways had told us to bear Rs.350 crore for land acquisition. We put our foot down.

Now the railways have made a revised plan, whereby the entire rail line would be constructed on pillars—like the Delhi metro—above ground. The requirement of land and its cost will now be significantly low,” Sarkar told.

Currently, Bangladesh’s lone rail link with India passes through Kolkata. The British-era rail corridor between Agartala and Dhaka was snapped after Partition of Sub-Continent in 1947.

Sarkar is also hopeful for an early resumption of train services. “This Bangladesh government has never objected to any development plan that involves Tripura. Sheikh Hasina has a soft corner for Tripura and she want both the regions falling on the Bangladesh and India areas should be developed” said Sarkar.

Apart from attending the meeting of North-East CMs with Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday, Sarkar has so far held two exclusive meetings with the prime minister. Putting aside their political and ideological differences, the four-time CM maintains a cordial working relation with him.

Pakistan requires 1000 Locomotives & 12 Billion USD to transform Railways: Khawaja Rafique, Railway Minister

Lahore: Federal Minister for Railways, Khawaja Saad Rafique on Saturday pointed out that Pakistan Railways requires at least 1,000 locomotives and 12 billion dollars to transform it into a best train service.

The Pakistan Railways (PR) Saturday signed an agreement was with General Electric (GE) USA to procure 55 locomotives. PR Director Procurement Ziauddin Ahmed Qureshi and Mr Ishfaq representative of General Electric of the United States signed the agreement here at Railways Headquarters.

An agreement for Pakistan Railways to purchase 55 GE Transportation diesel locomotives was signed on June 20
An agreement for Pakistan Railways to purchase 55 GE Transportation diesel locomotives was signed on June 20

The 1 676 mm gauge 4 500 hp locomotives are to be supplied from the USA fully assembled, with deliveries scheduled to run from November 2016 to April 2017. They would cost Rs500m each, including taxes, and are expected to pay for themselves within three years.

Minister of Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique said 40 of the locomotives would be used to haul coal to the Sahiwal and Jamshoro power stations, and 15 would be used on general freight services. ‘It is the first time in the history of PR that such locomotives of latest technology are being inducted in the fleet,’ said Rafique, adding that all future procurements would be from companies with a proven export record.

Addressing a press conference Minister for Railways, Khawaja Saad Rafique who oversaw the signing of the agreement said today was a historic day for the Paksitan Railways as it was going to procure locomotives of 4,000 to 4,500 horse power from a company whose export profile was good. In future also all procurements would be made from companies having good export profile and no compromise in this regard would be made he added.

He said that the PR was fulfilling its promise of procuring modern items as the GE was one of the best companies in the world. Saad Rafique said out of 55 completely built up (CBUs) locomotives 23 to 24 would be used for the Sahiwal Coal Power project 10 for Bahawalpur project and the remaining would also be used for coal operation. He said that the first shipment of the locomotives would arrive in 16 months. These locomotives he said remained operational more than their age and would return their price in three years.

Pakistan Railways was also focusing on manufacturing locomotives in Pakistan and for the purpose it would reach an agreement with a company giving best offer for transfer of technology (TOT) in Rasalpur factory.

The minister said soon Eid operation would be announced. The Green Line train he said was running successfully with 100% occupancy. He said the PR wanted to add value to two to three trains in current fiscal year.The minister said service structure would be made for employees in Grade 1 to 16 adding that companies would be invited through open advertisement for this purpose. To a question he said that the PR had set its priorities and work would be carried out in all areas in steps. PR Chief Executive Officer Javed Anwar and other officials were also present.

Pakistan to complete Gauge Conversion between Khanewal-Raiwind section by March 2016

Islamabad: Pakistan Railways will target its investments around locomotives, bogies, tracks, signalling systems, and improvement of existing railway stations.

Work on doubling of track from Khanewal to Raiwind, and from Shahdara to Lalamusa will be completed during the financial year 2015-16. Both of these tracks will cover major portions of the north-south mainline.  In coming years Pakistan Railways will aim to double the remaining tracks.

Strengthening and rehabilitation of one hundred and fifty-nine weak railway bridges will be completed by June 2017. Allocations have been made in the next year’s budget to add one hundred and seventy engines to the system through procurement while one hundred old engines will be repaired for use.

Similarly, around fifteen hundred new wagons and bogeys are also being arranged. Pakistan Railways is taking these steps to improve the travelling facilities for its passengers.

The government has allocated seventy-eight billion rupees for Pakistan Railways, of which forty-one billion rupees are in Public Sector Development Programme for 52 development projects.

Bangladesh to get $505 Million in Loan from ADB for improvement of Rail system

Dhaka: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the government of Bangladesh on Sunday signed agreements for $505 million in loans to further improve the country’s railways that will help the national economy and boost subregional trade.

Mohammad Mejbahuddin, Senior Secretary, Economic Relations Division (ERD), and Kazuhiko Higuchi, Country Director, Bangladesh Resident Mission of ADB, signed the agreements in Dhaka.

“The assistance will help railways better serve needs of people and movement of goods, and help improve domestic and subregional trade,” said Higuchi.

“This project will also help improve the overall railway transport system in Bangladesh, and aims to reduce transport costs and improve logistics of strategic corridors, such as Dhaka–Chittagong link, for subregional trade.” he added.

The South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Railway Connectivity Project will help upgrade the 72-kilometer Akhaura–Laksam section of the Dhaka–Chittagong railway corridor to a double track dual-gauge railway line, along with modern signaling equipment.

The existing track will be upgraded in accordance with the requirements of the Trans Asia Railways network. Eleven railway stations will be reconstructed with special facilities for the elderly, women, children, and disabled.

The project will also support capacity development for the permanent project management unit to be established in Bangladesh Railway and for accessing climate mitigation funding.

The Akhaura-Laksam section is part of a major subregional corridor and of the Trans-Asia Railway network. The project was endorsed by the SASEC Trade Facilitation and Transport Working Group in a meeting held in Singapore on 30 October, 2013.

The total project cost is $805 million. The European Investment Bank (EIB) will cofinance the project with $175 million while the government of Bangladesh will provide $125 million. The project will be executed by Bangladesh Railway and is expected to be completed by 2022.

ORF study suggests connectivity of NE State Capitals with Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh

orfNew Delhi: While recommending development of gauge compatibility between the Indian and Bangladeshi railways, a key study has called for exploration of a new project connecting the capital cities of the north-eastern states with Dhaka and Chittagong through broad gauge railway networks.

An Observer Research Foundation (ORF) study, “India-Bangladesh Connectivity: Possibilities and Challenges”, has recommended modernisation of ports and improvements in connecting the ports by road or railways. It suggested enhancement of the frequency of Kolkata-Dhaka roadways and its extension to Agartala.

Besides encouraging large-scale transportation of goods through Bangladesh to the north-eastern region, the report has recommended enhancement of connectivity through waterways.

The report has suggested introduction of short-term work permits on an experimental basis, easing of visa restrictions, cross-border vehicular movement and transforming borders into space for opportunities. The suggestion for a free movement of people is not to suggest making the border more porous, but to allow cross-border job and commerce-related movement of workers, traders, academics, businessmen, patients and groups of people having connection to cultural and religious traditions in the other country.

There is, however, a lot of scope for the north-eastern region to become an interconnected region with and through Bangladesh, if road and rail linkages are established and those which existed previously, are revived. Inter-connection of this contiguous zone through rail and road links will not only bring economic gains, but also increase the mobility of the common people and enhance trust on both sides of the border, the report said.

It is worth noting that the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) is now laying tracks to connect Tripura’s southernmost border town of Sabroom. From Sabroom, the Chittagong international sea port is a mere 72 km away. The Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) is laying the new railway tracks on both sides of the border. Of the 15-km rail line, a length of five km of tracks falls within Indian territory.

The report has also dealt with the problem of illegal migration from Bangladesh, describing it as a major concern for India. Though migration across the border is well acknowledged, there is lack of authentic data on the exact number of people who have migrated. Some studies claim that the number runs into millions. This has caused serious problems of security and social tension in many parts of India, especially in the North-east, the report said.

The illegal migration has disturbed the demography in some of the Indian border-states and has created serious ethnic tensions. Of late, Bangladesh has also been claiming the existence of illegal migrants from India, the report said.

Interestingly, quoting media reports, the report claimed that Indians living illegally in Bangladesh are remitting billions of dollars to India. According to some Bangladeshi authors, the figure is as high as 500,000 Indians sending about USD 3,716 million. People migrating to Bangladesh illegally, it is claimed, are from West Bengal, Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura and Mizoram.

About border fencing, the report said the India-Bangladesh border cannot be fenced because the terrain – at places riverine or hilly or marshy – does not permit construction of fences.

About Observer Research Foundation (ORF)

Observer Research Foundation is said to be conceived and supported by a cross-section of leading intellectuals, academics, public figures, social activists, business leaders and institutions of higher learning. It was established on September 5, 1990 as a non-profit, public policy think tank and Rishi Kumar Mishra was the founding chairman.

ORF provides informed and viable inputs for the policy and decision-makers in the Indian Government and to the political and business leadership of the India. For this, the Foundation has established four Institutes to consolidate and shape its many activities and programs. These are the:

  • ORF Institute of Asian Studies
  • ORF Institute of Security Studies
  • ORF Institute of Politics and Governance
  • ORF Institute of Economy and Development

ORF Objectives:

  • Aid and impact formulation of policies and evolve policy alternatives.
  • Create a climate conducive to effective implementation of these policies.
  • Strengthen India?s democratic institutions to enable coherent, reasoned and consistent policy-making.
  • Provide reasoned and consensual inputs representing a broad section of opinion to improve governance, accelerate economic development, and ensure a better quality of life for all Indians.
  • Monitor strategic environment.
  • Work towards achieving international peace, harmony, and co-operation.
  • Give direction to India?s long-range foreign policy objectives.

Today, ORF is known among policy makers, both in India and abroad, as a place pulsating with fresh promises and ideas. Ideas are what shape public policy think tanks. Ideas are an expression of unfettered curiosity and an urge to explore ways and means to find solutions to vexed issues that affect us. At ORF, ideas are reflected in the projects and programmes that are undertaken by various institutes and programmes. Young researchers are encouraged to take up challenges of organizing and leading projects which, in the years to come, would be symbols of pride for the Foundation.

The Foundation’s activities can be neatly divided into two categories: Projects and Events. Both are an intrinsic part of the Foundation?s objective in shaping, influencing public opinion and creating viable, alternative policy options in areas as divergent as employment generation in backward districts and real-time strategies to counter Nuclear, Biological and Chemical threats.

Bangladesh to construct Double Track Standard-Gauge Railway Line between Dhaka-Chittagong with Chinese funding

Dhaka: Railways Minister Mazibul Hoque yesterday told parliament that the government had taken initiative to implement a project to reduce the length of Dhaka-Chittagong rail track by 90km and shorten the journey between the two cities.

“An initiative has been taken to implement the project, titled “Construction of Double Track Standard-Gauge Railway Line” between Dhaka and Chittagong via Laksham, Comilla, with Chinese funding on government-to-government basis, instead of setting up the Dhaka-Comilla elevated railway,” the minister said in reply to a question.

If the project is implemented, the rail distance between Dhaka and Chittagong will decrease by around 90km and it will take only three hours to travel from one city to another via train.

He said a Memorandum of Understanding has already been signed with a Chinese firm in this regard and a Preliminary Development Project Proforma was approved in principle for the project by the Planning Minister.

If the project is finally approved after getting the Chinese fund, it will take some three years to complete physical works of the project, Mazibul said.

Railway Ministry to nominate Team to speed up India-Bangladesh Rail project

New Delhi: To push India-Bangladesh rail extension project, the Ministry of Railways would be sending a high level team to expedite the process soon to Agartala and Dhaka.

The decision of sending the Railway Ministry team to have a first-hand knowledge about the proposed rail project was taken at a meeting of NITI Aayog held in Delhi on June 18, said Transport Secretary Samarjit Bhowmik.

NITI Aayog in the meeting decided to implement the railway extension project from Agartala to Gangasagar (Bangladesh) by 2017.

“It was decided that Agartala-Gangasagar (Bangladesh) would be completed by 2017 but it was not clarified when the work for the dream railway extension work will begin,” Bhowmik said.

Bhowmik said of the total 5 km proposed railway project in Indian side, altogether 2.5 km rail link would be overhead while the remaining part would be laid on the land. This would reduce the estimated expenditure for land acquisition to connect Agartala railway station with Bangladesh’s Gangasagar railway station.

It was estimated that Rs.302 crore would be required to acquire land for the 5 km railway track in Indian side.

“Uncertainty over funding the ambitious project was also removed after NITI Aayog clarified that the Railway Ministry will pump fund to implement the project,” Bhowmik, who was present at the meeting said.

NITI Aayog adviser Manoj Singh presided over the meeting while Joint Secretaries of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), DoNER and top officials from Railways Ministry remained present there.

Ecological Challenge: 3 Oil Tankers plunge into River as Bridge collapses in Chittagong in Bangladesh

Bangla oil tankersDhaka: A freight train carrying furnace oil from Patenga derailed at Sitakunda in Chittagong on Friday noon and leaked around 21,255 gallons of crude, most of which spilled into a canal. The accidental spill from three tank wagons of the freight train poses serious threat to aquatic creatures in the canal water that flows toward the Bay. In this incident, three tankers of oil train plunged into the canal as a bridge broke down with the tankers on Chittagong-Dohazari rail track at Benguira in Boalkhali of Chittagong.

One of the three oil wagons that fell into the canal
One of the three oil wagons that fell into the canal

Officer-in-charge of Boalkhali Police Station Samsul Islam said the number 24 bridge of Chittagong-Dohazari railroad broke down when the oil train was running on it around 1:30pm, leading the two bogies of the train fall down and sink in the water.

derailed oil tankersThe engine and six oil-laden tankers of the Dohazari Peaking Power Plant-bound train slipped off the track at Uttar Chhalimpur near Faujdarhat Railway Station around 6:30am. “The derailment happened as the loco master violated the signal,” said Abdul Hai, chief engineer of Bangladesh Railway (East Zone).

Three people were also injured in the incident. General Manager of the East Zone of Bangladesh Railway Mozammel Haq confirmed the incident.

The engine of a furnace oil-carrying train that derailed as a bridge over a canal crumbled in Khitabchar area under Boalkhali upazila of Chittagong
The engine of a furnace oil-carrying train that derailed as a bridge over a canal crumbled in Khitabchar area under Boalkhali upazila of Chittagong

Udayan Express from Sylhet was approaching the station on green signal when the freight train was on the track, said Chandan Kanti Das, chief signal and telecommunication engineer of BR (East). Sensing danger, the station master blinked red signal for the Udayan Express and its loco master managed to stop the Chittagong-bound passenger train, he added. Rail communications between Chittagong and other parts of the country remained suspended for seven hours since 6:30 am following the derailment of the freight train at Sitakunda.  oil from derailed tankers

People were seen collecting oil in their buckets from the canal, three to four kilometres away from the sea. Md Javed, a local who was scooping up the split oil, said “I will sell the oil to a local shop to earn some bucks.” Asked whether the oil spill could reach sea water through the canal, Salahuddin Aziz, chairman of 10 Chhalimpur union, said, “There is a possibility of the crude getting mixed with sea water. “During the high tide sea water floods the canal and then draws back.” Dr Alok Pal, professor of geography and environmental studies in Chittagong University, said, “Fish feed on plankton found on water surface, which would be destroyed by such a large volume of spill.”  Jahir Alam, an assistant engineer of Dohazari Peaking Power Plant, said there were about 7,085 gallons of furnace oil in each wagon.oil lifted from derailed tankers

“Six wagons derailed and all oil from three wagons leaked into the nearby canal,” said a senior railway official, preferring not to be named. “It will take three to four days to assess the extent of damage caused by the derailment,” Jahir said. An intercity train with 500 passengers narrowly escaped a fatal accident on the route as the freight train was about to enter Faujdarhat Railway Station, violating the signal.oil challenge derailed tankers

The railway authorities suspended the train’s loco master Uttam Kumar Bhattacharya and assistant loco master Didar Hossain on charge of violating the signal, said Mozammel Haque, general manager of BR (East). Two committees — one led by BR (East) chief engineer and another by Chittagong Divisional Transportation Officer Md Zakir Hossain — were formed to investigate the incident. On July 30, 2013, train service on Chittagong-Dohazari route was disrupted after three oil tank wagons of a freight train derailed in Baruapara area of Boalkhali upazila in Chittagong.

China keen on Kunming-Kolkata Highspeed Rail to give boost to Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Multimodel Corridor

Kunming: China is keen to establish a high speed rail link between Kunming and Kolkata as part of its efforts to revive the ancient silk route, traversing through Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The proposal, which found a mention at the recently held Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) meet here, seeks to give a boost to the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) multi-model corridor project initiated by China.

New Silk Rail Route“We are in favour of it. The high speed corridor would help the economies of Myanmar and Bangladesh as well, apart from connecting Asia’s giants i.e. China and India” said Li Ji Ming, Vice Secretary of Yunnan provincial government while indicating funding from multilateral bodies such as Asian Development Bank.

The 2800 kilometer rail route could be a critical component for the BCIM corridor that seeks cross border trade and flow of people.

China has pledged $40 billion for the silk route, having a trade potential of USD 132 billion. China has been endeavouring for a revival of the silk route with a visionary plan to establish wide ranging connectivity from Kunming to Kolkata.

Yunnan enjoys crucial geographical location, involving in GMS and BCIM regional cooperation. It is one of the major provinces engaged in construction of China-Indo-China peninsula economic corridor and BCIM economic corridor.

As part of efforts to strengthen connectivity, Ming said Shandong Airlines would start flight services between Kunming and New Delhi from next month.

Currently Kunming, capital of Southwest China’s Yunnan province, is only connected to Kolkata.

Talking to reporters following the just concluded China south Asia trade fair here, Ming sought “active participation” from India in taking ahead the BCIM and China-India peninsula corridor projects.

“We are glad to know that after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office, the look east policy has substantially moved ahead. We hope we can join our efforts together. We are big partners and influential in the region,” he said.

Talking about the expo, Ming hoped there would be more representation from India in next edition in comparison to just 10 companies this year.

The inauguration of the fair was attended by Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh last week.

“We need more Indian companies participation as there is a vibrant private sector,” Ming said.

He also talked about an Indian night event organised on the sidelines to promote economic and cultural ties between India and China.

Talking about the entertainment sector in particular, he favoured screening of more and more Indian films in Chinese theaters and joint collaboration in movie making.

The recent release of Aamir Khan starer PK has been a hit in China, Ming, who plans to catch the movie soon, said.

Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation

The Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation (BCIM) is a sub-regional organisation of Asian nations aimed at greater integration of trade and investment between the four countries. The Bangladesh China India Myanmar Economic Corridor is an initiative conceptualised for significant gains through sub-regional economic cooperation within the BCIM. The multi-modal corridor will be the first expressway between India and China and will pass through Myanmar and Bangladesh.

These advantages are envisaged to accrue from greater market access for goods, services and energy, elimination of non-tariff barriers, better trade facilitation, investment in infrastructure development, joint exploration and development of mineral, water, and other natural resources, development of value and supply chains based on comparative advantages, by translating comparative advantages into competitive advantages, and through closer people to people contact.

The proposed corridor will cover 1.65 million square kilometres, encompassing an estimated 440 million people in China’s Yunnan Province, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bihar in Northern India through the combination of road, rail, water and air linkages in the region. This interconnectedness would facilitate the cross-border flow of people and goods, minimize overland trade obstacles, ensure greater market access and increase multilateral trade.

Historical Background

The concept of economic cooperation within the BCIM region was first developed by Professor Rehman Sobhan who advocated that multi-modal transport connectivity and supported by other initiatives and infrastructure development could significantly reduce transaction costs, stimulate trade and investment and consequently accelerate growth and poverty alleviation in this region.

Professor Sobhan’s pioneering ideas would eventually lead to the development of the platform in the 1990s which came to be known as the ‘Kunming Initiative’. The first meeting of the Initiative was convened in 1999 in Kunming; presided by a number of representative organisations such as The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) from Bangladesh, Centre for Policy Research (CPR) from India and Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences in Kunming, China; from the Myanmar side it was the Ministry of Trade which represented the country.

The ‘Kunming Initiative’ evolved into the BCIM Forum for Regional Cooperation during its first with the objective to create a platform where major stakeholders could meet and discuss issues in the context of promoting economic growth and trade in the BCIM region; identify specific sectors and projects which would promote greater collaboration amongst the BCIM nations; and strengthen cooperation and institutional arrangements among the concerned key players and stakeholders to deepen BCIM ties.

Over the years, the Kunming initiative developed into what came to be popularly known as the BCIM Forum. Successive BCIM Forums were held annually making a seminal contribution in raising awareness about the potential benefits accruing from the BCIM cooperation. BCIM cooperation also started to feature in intergovernmental discussions, at highest political levels, as was recounted above. The initial vision of the Kunming initiative was to gradually steer the endeavour from an essentially civil society (Track II) to an intergovernmental (Track I) one where political buy-in and intergovernmental ownership would be key to realising the vision and the objectives of the initiative.

Current State of Affairs

One of the most recent developments to the BCIM came to fruition during the meeting between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2013. Li’s visit marked the first time high-ranking officials had discussed the trade corridor. Furthermore, earlier in the year, the first ever BCIM car rally was held between Kolkata and Kunming via Dhaka to highlight road connectivity in the four countries.

On December 18, 2013, the four nations drew up a long discussed plan, emphasising the need to quickly improve physical connectivity in the region, over two days of talks in the south-western Chinese city of Kunming— the provincial capital of Yunnan, which borders Myanmar— on Wednesday and Thursday. This marked the formal endorsement on the BCIM-EC by the four nations, whereby it was agreed that the corridor will run from Kunming to Kolkata, linking Mandalay in Myanmaras well as Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh.

Benefits of the Corridor

The economic advantages of the BCIM trade corridor are considerable, most notably: access to numerous markets in Southeast Asia, improvement of transportation infrastructure and creation of industrial zones.

The construction of industrial zones will have a twofold benefit. Firstly, it will lead to industrial transfer boosting industries such as processing, manufacturing and commerce logistics. Secondly, as labour costs rise in China, labour-intensive industries such as textile and agro processing will eventually be shifted out of China. These industries will need to be transferred to new regions with lower labour costs. Companies operating in China will likely give priority to the trade corridor region given its established infrastructure, improved logistics and ease of access.

India’s isolated eastern and north-eastern states also stand to gain by higher trade and connectivity with China and the rest of Asia.

Priority Sector

The eleven BCIM Forums, organised in rotation by the aforesaid institutions in the four countries, have highlighted the potential benefits of closer cooperation among the four countries in such areas as connectivity, trade, investment, energy, water management, tourism and other areas. The four countries also agreed to encourage greater cooperation and exchanges in the BCIM region in the areas of education, sports and science and technology.

Leadership and Representation

During the last held session in 2013, India was represented at this week’s talks by Joint Secretary (East Asia) at the Ministry of External Affairs Gautam Bambawale, who was joined by the Deputy Planning Minister of Bangladesh, the Vice Chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, and a Senior economic affairs official from Myanmar.

Cooperation

Through linking the ASEAN Free Trade Area, ASEAN-China Free Trade Area and the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area, the corridor would constitute as one of the largest free trade areas. Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar hope to create a corridor that would effectively combine road, rail, water and air linkages in the region. This will also bolster foreign trade of the BCIM countries and empower bilateral trading.

China should build railways through Pakistan to boost trade with South Asia & Arabian Peninsula: Chinese official

Beijing: China and Pakistan should build a railway network in addition to the proposed USD 46-billion economic corridor to boost trade with South Asia and Arabian Peninsula, a top Chinese official said.

“We should prepare to build a railway between China and Pakistan as soon as possible,” He Sanqiu, head of transport in Kashgar was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency today.

Kashgar, the Chinese city in volatile Xinjiang region, borders Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which will be connected with the 3,000-kilometre-long China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with Pakistan’s port city of Gwadar.

The corridor, proposed to pass through the PoK, is objected by India due to the disputed status of the region.

The report said that the construction of roads, railways and pipelines across Pakistan is expected to take around 15 years.

Rail is “the easiest way” to link Kashgar with South Asia, the Arab Peninsula, and even parts of east Africa around the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, He Sanqiu said.

There are plenty of opportunities to increase trade, including industrial parks, agriculture and tourism, he said.

China and Pakistan have plans to increase trade to around USD 20 billion within three years from the current USD 16 billion.

The economic corridor will create new business opportunities for enterprises in many economic sectors, Sun Weidong, Chinese ambassador to Pakistan said.

The corridor is at the centre of the agreements signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan in April.

Besides energy, it also involves wide cooperation in fields including agriculture, finance and industrial parks, he said.

“The corridor should prioritise infrastructure including highways, railways, tunnels and optical cables,” She Ruiyuan, head of the Development and Reform Commission of Kashgar said.

“China-Pakistan trade remains small, strangled by poor roads,” said Pan Zhiping, professor at Xinjiang University.

In 2014, trade between Pakistan and Xinjiang was USD 147 million, far less than Xinjiang’s USD 12.2-billion with another neighbour, Kazakhstan, said He Yiming, director of Xinjiang commerce department.

Focus on Rail links ahead of PM’s visit to Bangladesh

New Delhi: Narendra Modi during his visit to Dhaka is likely to discuss new bus and train routes as already the Bengal government has cleared two new routes from Kolkata and are awaiting the sanction of Centre – Kolkata to Chittagong and Kolkata to Shillong via Bangladesh.Modi will be flagging off the Kolkata-Agartala bus route at Dhaka on June 7, which will be rolling out of Kolkata on June 5. Even Modi government is considering a new rail route Khulna to Kolkata and for that already a meeting was held in March. For that the Prime Ministers of the two countries might be discussing about using the rail tracks in Bangladesh.A senior official said that the Khulna-Kolkata rail link can be easily launched soon, but the home ministry is concerned with the security aspect and for that the Centre is delaying in giving clearance to this route, which is of high demand. The Centre is also considering if a rail link to Agartala can be done via Dhaka, as already the Maitree express runs on six days between Kolkata and Dhaka and extending it to Agartala is on the cards. Bangladesh officials are planning to connect the line from Dhaka to Akhaura through broad gauge and then on the Indian side from Akhaura to Agartala can be easily connected. At present the line between Dhaka to Akhaura is on metre gauge, so a change of tracks is needed in this section.

The new bus route from Kolkata to Agartala will take around 18 hours including the customs and immigration checks. The officials are also likely to discuss how the checking time can be reduced, as it causes major inconvenience to the passengers.

An official said that the trains on a regular basis carry around 400 passengers. Both the governments are considering to increase people to people contact and for that the rail and road links are going to increase, particularly after the land boundary agreement going to be a reality. For that the transport officials of Bengal had proposed a bus link to Chittagong from Kolkata and another to Shillong via Dinajpur in Bangaldesh. Nilanjan Shandilya, MD of West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation (WBSTC) said that the two proposed routes had been sent to the Centre for clearance. But the bus to Chittagong can take over 18 hours, though it will help trade links, officials said.

Another rail link is also on the cards connecting Kolkata with North Bengal through Iswardi in Bangladesh via Nilphamari in northern Bangladesh to Siliguri or Cooch Behar. During the post-independence days, Kolkata-Siliguri trains used to run in this route too, this is likely to be revived soon.

Train routes

  • Kolkata to Khulna
  • Kolkata to Agartala via Dhaka
  • Kolkata to North Bengal via Nilphamari

Bus links :

  • Kolkata to Chittagong
  • Kolkata to Shillong via Bangladesh

Indo-Bangladesh Special Midnapur Urs Train marks 112 years of Service

The Urs Special unites people of two towns in Bangladesh and India for an annual religious gathering
Midnapore Urs Special Train

It took 43 years for passenger train service between Dhaka and Kolkata to resume after the 1965 India-Pakistan war.

That’s less than half of the Bangladesh to India service life of the Midnapore Urs.  Since 1903, the governments of India, Bangladesh and for a time Pakistan, allow a Special Train carrying pilgrims from Rajbari, Bangladesh, to Midnapore, West Bengal and back, to continue its annual rail service largely uninterrupted.

“Every year on February 15th, people of all faiths go to Midnapore Urs to seek blessings of the Boro Huzur, a descendant of Boropir Abdul Qadir Jilani, who came to India from Iraq in the 19th century to preach Islam,” Abdul Mannan, the committee’s organising secretary, told Khabar.

Hindus, who also attend the Urs, call the saint Guru Dev. “The occasion makes an excellent gathering of all faiths of both Bangladesh and India,” Mannan said.

On February 15th, 2,100 festival-bound Bangla pilgrims boarded for the trip to West Bengal. The train brought them back home four days later.
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This unique train is a bond of friendship and religious harmony. We are proud of it,” Rajbari deputy commissioner Hasanuzzaman Kallol told Khabar South Asia.

Boro Huzur first came to Rajbari in 1901 to visit his followers in undivided India after he had inherited the title from his father on February 17th. Every year since that day, Bangladeshi disciples have attended the Urs festival.

According to Hazart Ali, Rajbari station manager, the train service was cancelled only four times in the past 111 years: during the Indo-Pak war in 1965; Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971; after riots following the Babri mosque destruction in 1992 and after the outbreak of plague in Surat in 1994.

“People know the Maitree Express is the only train between Bangladesh and India, but we have been operating the Urs special since 1903,” former Bangladesh Railway Director General T.A. Chowdhury told Khabar. Although it took years of negotiations between the two countries to launch the Express, Indian authorities had always been liberal about the Urs special, he said.

Anjuman-e-Qadria, the management committee in Rajbari, selects passenger applicants by lottery. The Indian High Commission in Dhaka issues visas based on the committee’s list.

Kabir Uddin Pramanik, a disciple who has attended the Urs ten times, told Khabar, “Our Huzur promotes peaceful co-existence of all religions. He promotes humanity.”

Indo-Bangladesh Inter Governmental Railway Meeting (IGRM) concludes in New Delhi

India, Bangladesh to sign pacts on strengthening rail, road and shipping linkages during India’s Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh shortly – the MOUs to be signed during Modi’s visit to Dhaka is expected to help increase trade between both countries and improve connectivity with India’s North-East

New Delhi: India – Bangladesh Inter Governmental Railway Meeting (IGRM) was held in New Delhi on May 25th – 27th, 2015. Besides officials of Indian Railways and Bangladesh Railway, representatives of departments of Customs, Immigration and External Affairs from both countries also participated in the deliberations.

During the course of extensive deliberations that were held in keeping with the established environment of mutual trust and co-operation between the two Railways, satisfaction was expressed at the implementation of the decisions taken in the last meeting, which was held in Dhaka in April 2014 to augment the frequency of Maitree Express to three round trips in a week with effect from 4th January 2015. As regards the need / feasibilities of increasing the frequency of this train to four times, it was agreed that Bangladesh Railway would conduct a due diligence exercise and revert to Indian Railways in due course. It was also agreed that both sides would further pursue the initiative to shift Customs and Immigration checks to Kolkata and Dhaka. To this end, IR expressed its readiness to convert Maitree Express into a fully air conditioned service.

In response to the popular demand and need for introduction of a weekly passenger service between Khulna and Kolkata, both sides agreed to expeditiously evaluate the feasibility of initially operating this once a week service via the longer Gede – Darsana route with an Indian Railways’ rake and review arrangements after issues relating to conduct of Customs and Immigration checks at Benapole/Petrapol or at Kolkata/Dhaka get settled.

The need for immediate introduction of Container train services between India and Bangladesh was reiterated by Indian Railways. It was appreciated by both sides that this would help in optimizing the level of trans-border clearance of goods and in bringing down the overall transaction cost for trade. Both railways also agreed to start transportation by rail of Petroleum products from Numaligarh Refinery in Assam to Parbatipur in Bangladesh via the existing interchange points at Rohanpur and Singhabad.

With a view to catalyze growth in trade between the two countries, the need for undertaking rail connectivity projects like Radhikapur (India) – Birol (Bangladesh), Chilahati (Bangladesh) – Haldibari (India), Shahbazpur (Bangladesh) – Mahisasan (India), Akhoura (Bangladesh) – Agartala (India) and Feni (Bangladesh) – Belonia (India) was appreciated by both sides.

In response to IR’s request for being allowed access to BR network for the purposes of carrying through traffic to and from its Eastern States, Bangladesh Railway agreed to have the proposal placed for due consideration at the appropriate levels of its Governments.

Bangladesh approves 9 projects, including rail track from Khulna to Mongla Port on Indian LoC

The project will be partly financed out of the Indian line-of-credit, the $1 billion low-interest loan offered by the last Indian government to Dhaka to implement infrastructure projects that would ultimately aid connectivity between the two nations. The revised project will cost double the original.

The approval came from the 29th ECNEC meeting of the current fiscal held at the NEC conference room in the city’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar area with NEC chairperson and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.

The estimated cost of Khulna-Mongla rail project, to be financed by the Indian government, has more than doubled in last five years. The project cost was estimated to be Tk 17.21 billion when it was first approved in 2010.

Dhaka Metro rail project operations to begin by end 2019

Dhaka:  Bangladesh will start the operation of the Dhaka Metro rail project partially by the end of 2019 after soil testing comes to an end, according to project officials.

According to The Daily Star, the service, as planned, will be initially launched on a 10-kilometer stretch between Uttara and Agargaon.

The basic design has been submitted by the consortium of consultants and they are now working on the details.

The project is aimed at reducing the traffic congestion in the city through a comfortable and improved public transportation service.

Mofazzel Hossain, Director of Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project, said that the train will enable commuters to travel from Uttara to Motijheel in only 38 minutes as opposed to two hours on normal days.

ADB likely to finance Bangladesh proposed Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar direct rail link

Dhaka: The proposed Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar-Ghundum rail-line project, which will link the capital directly to tourist hotspot Cox’s Bazar, is likely to be completed through Asian Development Bank funding. The government decided to suspend talks with Beijing on the proposed project, at a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office on February 15, referring instead the loan proposal from ADB, revealed Economic Relation Division officials. Principal secretary Abul Kalam Azad presided over the meeting in which the railway ministry was asked to suspend discussion with the Chinese government, until completion of the ongoing negotiation with ADB. BR had been favouring the Chinese proposal after the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, sought financial support from China during her last visit to Beijing in June 2014. BR took up the railway line project in 2010 aiming to establish direct rail link between Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar, the country’s number one tourist destination. The project is also part of the Trans Asian railway that will connect Bangladesh with China via Myanmar. The government failed to make any progress in the last four years, after failing to find a suitable source of financing. Last December, BR signed a memorandum of understanding with China Railway Group Limited to start a feasibility study for the rail-track, despite ADB having completed a study in this regard. ADB estimated the project cost between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion for the 128-kilometre-long rail-line project up to the border with Myanmar. ADB has promised to give loan worth $492 million to develop key infrastructure projects in roads, railways, energy and trade, over the next three years. The projects are Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar railway link at a cost of $217 million, the second Bangladesh-India electrical grid interconnection at $105 million and road and trade facilitation at $170 million.

China-Pak Rail link through Islamabad-Karachi stir up controversy in Pak

Islamabad: With the USD 46 billion Sino-Pak Economic Corridor unveiled by President Xi Jinping stirring up a controversy in Pakistan, Chinese experts today waded into the debate by suggesting that the proposed railway route be built through Karachi and Islamabad for commercial viability.

A railway route along the eastern part of Pakistan is the most feasible for the railway artery of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), official media here reported today.

“The eastern route, which would go from Karachi to Islamabad and further north in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, is obviously more convenient and will cost less,” state-run Global Times quoted a report as saying.

CPEC proposes to connect Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Balochistan close to Iran border with Xinjiang through highways, rail lines, gas and oil pipelines.

Considering that the projected investments amounts to USD 46 billion, the biggest by China in overseas projects, various political parties in Pakistan demanded details of the route over anxieties that the dominant Punjab province could garner most of the investments leaving poor provinces like Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan out of it.

The eastern route of Karachi to Islamabad and Xinjiang through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), will leave Balochistan and KP, both of which are regarded as destabilised provinces due to the presence of militant groups.

Yin Xingmin, professor of the China Centre for Economic Studies at Fudan University, believes that the final project should be the eastern route, which crosses the more populous regions of Pakistan.

“A railway generates more economic impact when it passes through more populous regions,” Yin told the Global Times.

Chinese experts say that bilateral negotiation is vital in finalising the railway route, the flagship project of China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, launched by Xi during his just concluded visit to Pakistan.

China’s National Railway Administration and the Railways Ministry of Pakistan signed a MoU on a joint feasibility study for upgrading the ML1 railway line and the establishment of Havelain Dry Port of Pakistan Railways, the report said.

The deal was one of the more than 51 MOUs Pakistan and China signed in Islamabad during Xi’s visit.

A spokesperson with the National Railway Administration said there is currently no news concerning how the route will be finalised.

“A mechanism of bilateral negotiation should be worked out, balancing the interests of all the stakeholders, and this experience should be able to be copied to other countries and markets included in the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, highlighting the exemplary role of a flagship project such as the CPEC,” Ma Hong, a Shanghai-based analyst, said.

Five years later, no green light for India-Bangladesh rail project

Agartala (AGTL): The proposed India-Bangladesh railway connectivity project has yet to take off, five years after it was sanctioned. According to officials here, it’s not certain when work can start, since no funds have been allocated yet.

The Rs. 575-crore ($90 million) project was finalised in January 2010 when Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met her counterpart Manmohan Singh during her visit to New Delhi.

“The central government is yet to provide required funds for the project. The land acquisition and subsequent works for the railway project connecting Tripura with Bangladesh would be delayed,” a top official of the Tripura government, who did not want to be named, told.

He said the state government had recently approached the railway ministry again to allocate funds. “No funds were allocated in the railway budget for 2015-16, even for land acquisition.

The cost of the project was earlier estimated at Rs.271 crore. In addition, Rs.302 crore are needed to acquire around 98 acres of land in India for laying the tracks.

A Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) official said: “The work to lay the 15-km railway track to link Agartala with Bangladesh’s southeastern Akhaura city is yet to start although the two countries are very serious to execute the plan.”
State-owned Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) is expected to lay the tracks on both sides of the border with five kilometres falling in the Indian territory.

“The new railway connectivity between the northeastern state and Bangladesh would boost the socio-economic, trade and business ties between the two countries,” Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey told reporters at the State Secretariat last week without elaborating when the funds for the project would be released. He said it would become cost-effective to ferry men and material between the two countries.

Tripura’s capital Agartala came on the country’s railway map in October 2008. At present, the distance between Agartala and Kolkata is 1,650 km which would get reduced to 650 km if a line is constructed through Bangladesh.

The NFR is the nodal agency to implement the new railway project, for which alignment of line and other technical details had been finalised by the officials of India and Bangladesh.

Indo-Bangladesh Rail link between Agartala-Akhaura expected to be completed by mid-2017

Agartala (AGTL): The 15km-long railway link between Agartala and Akhaura railway junction in Brahmanbaria district of Bangladesh is expected to be completed by mid-2017.

This will be accompanied by the construction of a bridge the cost of which will be borne by India across river Pheni to link up South Tripura district with Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. In addition, a bilateral agreement between the governments of India and Bangladesh will have to be signed to construct an all-weather link road between South Tripura and Chittagong port.

“I am sure this will happen sooner or later in view of the cordial relation between the two countries,” said Mohamed Obeidur Rahaman, outgoing first secretary and mission chief of Bangladesh visa office here.

Rahaman, who has had a distinguished service in the state for three years since 2012, handed over charge of the mission to Mohammed Manirujjaman yesterday but will leave Agartala on April 6.

He said the ongoing progress in India-Bangladesh bilateral relations had been dreamt and visualised by the father of the nation, assassinated President Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman. “As close neighbours with lot of cultural affinities both the countries should have the best of relations and things are moving in the right direction,” said Rahaman.

While acknowledging the “invaluable help” rendered by the government of India to the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971, he expressed special gratitude to the people of Tripura. “More than 15 lakh evacuees had come to Tripura for shelter to escape the atrocities of Pak occupation army at a time when the total population of Tripura was only 15 lakh. How can we forget this?” he said.

He said better linkages between India and Bangladesh would improve relations besides boosting economic relations between the two countries.

For Tripura residents, its via Bangladesh to the rest of India

अगरतला Agartala (AGTL): Hurdles in travelling to other parts of the country by road, rail and air are increasingly prompting the people of Tripura to go to other parts of India via Bangladesh.

Before the partition of the country in 1947, the routes of the then East Bengal (now Bangladesh) had been used to ferry men and materials to and from northeast India.

“For the people of Tripura, the Bangladeshi route is the only and secured option to go to Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai and other parts of India as road, rail and air journeys from this hilly state now become impossible,” Tarun Chakraborty, an executive of a Kolkata-based private company posted here, told IANS.

“If you are keen to visit Tripura, then the Bangladeshi route is the solitary and secure alternative. I, along with my family, were stranded in Kolkata for three days. My leave has exhausted but I was unable to rejoin my office in Agartala as no air tickets were available . I returned to Tripura from Kolkata via Bangladesh,” he added.

Thus, “the periodicity of the Agartala-Dhaka and Dhaka-Agartala bus services is likely to be increased in view of the pressure of Kolkata-bound passengers,” said an official of Tripura government-run Tripura Road Transport Corporation (TRTC), operator of the Agartala-Dhaka bus service.

The Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation and TRTC operate the bus services.

The Agartala-Dhaka bus service started in September 2003. Before that, the Kolkata-Dhaka bus service was introduced in July 1999.

“By bus or by train from Kolkata to Agartala via Dhaka takes around 18 hours. The bus fare is around Rs.1,600 and the rail fare is around Rs.500,” Chakraborty said.

Several hundred passengers, including serious patients, job seekers, students, bridegrooms and tourists have been stranded in Agartala, Kolkata and Guwahati in view of the non-availability of air tickets for want of aircraft.

“Since last year, eight airlines, including Jet Airways and SpiceJet, in a phased manner, stopped their operations on the Kolkata-Guwahati-Agartala route, causing enormous problems for passengers bound for these cities,” a senior official of the Airports Authority of India told IANS.

“Exploiting the situation, travel agencies in Agartala were booking air tickets in fake names and selling these to passengers at exorbitantly high prices,” Superintendent of Police (CID) Sanjoy Roy told IANS.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Tripura Police has launched a probe into the hoarding of flight tickets and manipulation of their rates.

“Following reports of bulk-booking of air tickets by a section of travel agencies, our officers have raided the offices of six agencies and collected all relevant documents. No one has yet been arrested,” Roy said.

Currently, only IndiGo and Air India are operating flights linking Agartala, Guwahati, Kolkata and New Delhi.

Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey told IANS: “People of the state have to largely depend on air travel because of the tenuous road and rail connectivity.”
Dey, along with the members of parliament from Tripura, wrote a series of letters to Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusupati to urgently intervene.

“Air tickets available for the Agartala-Kolkata route for Rs.2,000 to Rs.3,000 are now being sold for Rs.8,500 to Rs.15,000 per ticket,” a travel agent said.

Train services between Tripura, Mizoram, parts of Manipur and southern Assam and the rest of the country were stopped from Oct 1 due to gauge conversion of railway lines. The century-old railway lines are being converted from metre gauge to broad gauge.

“The 18-month-long gauge conversion work from Assam’s Lumding to Agartala would continue till March 2016,” a North Frontier Railway official told IANS.

The railway line is broad gauge from Assam’s main city of Guwahati up to Lumding (in southern Assam). From Lumding, Tripura’s capital Agartala and western Manipur, Mizoram and southern Assam, the railway link with the rest of India was a single and 110-year-old metre gauge line.

Agartala came into the railway network in 2008.

The only other alternative is travelling in the horrific conditions of the mountainous National Highway 44, the lifeline that links Tripura to the rest of India.

In view of the closer railway services, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) recently ferried 10,000 tonnes of rice for Tripura in two phases from Visakhapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh via Bangladesh.

The FCI has taken steps to ferry another 35,000 tonnes of rice for Tripura via Bangladesh.

Earlier in 2012, Bangladesh had allowed state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation to ferry heavy machinery, turbines and over-dimensional cargoes through Ashuganj port for the 726 MW Palatana mega power project in southern Tripura.

The transportation via Bangladesh is much easier as road connectivity is a big factor for the mountainous northeastern states which share boundaries with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and China.

There is only a narrow chicken-neck land corridor to the northeastern region from India through Assam and West Bengal but this route passes through hilly terrain with steep gradients and multiple hairpin bends, making plying of vehicles, especially loaded trucks, very difficult.

For instance, Agartala via Guwahati is 1,650 km from Kolkata by road and 2,637 km from New Delhi, while the distance between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh is just about 350 km.

MEA pushes for prestigious Indo-Bangla Railway project

अगरतला Agartala (AGTL):  In a major boost to the proposed Indo-Bangla rail project in Tripura, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has asked the Railway Ministry and Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) authorities to sanction Rs.302 Crore to DoNER (Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region) to begin land acquisition process for the dream project.

The directive came when MEA Joint Secretary Alok Sinha met officials of DoNER, Railway Ministry, NFR, IRCON and Tripura Government at a joint meeting held in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The DoNER Ministry, which was supposed to handle the funds for the Agartala-Akhaura rail project under the Planning Commission awards, has backed out from taking responsibility to push the project.

“We have conducted survey of the proposed alignment in the Tripura part but could not take start land acquisition as no fund was sanctioned in the Railway Budget”, sources said adding that the survey report proposed a Rs 302 crore requisition to the Union Government.

IRCON, a Central sector PSU, was entrusted with the responsibility to handle all operations of construction of the railway lines between Akhaura and Agartala over a distance of 15 km – a project that would literally change the way bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh were defined.

Following MEA’s instruction, the Railway Minister would be sending a funding proposal by November 5 to the DoNER, Transport Secretary Samarjit Bhowmik, who was present in the high level meeting in Delhi, said.

The Railway Ministry said that a road would be constructed along side the Indo-Bangla rail link connecting with the National Highway 44. The goods would be transported through highway trucks. A godown would be constructed at Charipara wherefrom the goods would be transported to the city.

Sources said the fourth meeting of the Agartala-Akhaura project steering committee is slated to be held at Dhaka by end of November this year.

India to warm up Kolkata and Khulna railway link

नई दिल्ली New Delhi: In a bid to further deepen bilateral ties with Bangaldesh, India is warming up to its neighbour with greater connectivity, as the former is examining a proposal to allow another rail line between Kolkata and Khulna after the Dhaka-Kolkata line

The Khulna-Kolkata rail link assumes importance for the fact that it would ensure linkage to tourists to the world famed Sundarban mangrove forest, which is also a home to the Royal Bengal tiger.

Khulna is also known as the centre from where the Mukti Vahini had launched the war of Independence against Pakistani Army.

Indian railways has agreed to allow the iconic Dhaka-Kolkata Maitree Express to run thrice a week, which currently is a biweekly train.

In a follow up to the visit of the external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj earlier, the two countries had decided to explore the possibility of enhancing the services of the Maitree Express.

“After a two-day long deliberations between officials of Indian railways and their counterparts from Bangladesh in Kolkata, it has been agreed that the Maitree Express will operate three days a week now. Before the train begins running on three days a week, certain custom and immigration formalities need to be done for which the railways will approach the ministry of finance and external affairs,” said a senior official of the railway board.

It has also been decided that the passenger capacity of the popular Maitree Express would further be enhanced and for that purpose more coaches would be attached in the Kolkata-Dhaka train, added the official.

Furthermore, India has agreed to expeditiously examine the feasibility of a rail link between Kolkata and Khulna, which is the third largest urban centre of Bangladesh and buzzes with industrial activities.

Following bilateral trade liberalisation, there has been a growing demand for a rail link between Khulna and Kolkata.