Hasina, Modi launch Railway, Power projects

The inauguration of the three projects was done via video conference with Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee joining in.

NEW DELHI/DHAKA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the construction work of two railway projects through video conferencing yesterday.

The two projects, Kulaura-Shahbajpur section rehabilitation of Bangladesh Railway and Akhaura-Agartala duel gauge rail connectivity (Bangladesh part), will be jointly funded by Bangladesh and India, said an official release said. There is also inauguration of a power link through which New Delhi would export an additional 500 megawatts (MW) of power to Dhaka. One of the railway projects that received the green signal on Monday involves the construction of a 15.5 kilometre railway link between Akhaura in Bangladesh and Agartala in Tripura. The project was agreed to when Sheikh Hasina visited New Delhi in 2010 and is expected to be operational in the next two years. It will aim to boost trade and connectivity between Bangladesh and the landlocked northeast. It will also reduce the travel time and distance between Kolkata and Agartala. India and Bangladesh started a train service between Kolkata and Dhaka in 2008. With a line already existing between Dhaka and Akhaura, the Akhaura-Agartala section when completed will allow seamless travel between Kolkata and Agartala through Bangladesh.

The second railway project involves rebuilding the Kulaura-Shahbajpur section of Bangladesh Railways (a rehabilitation project) to restore train link between Bangladesh and India as a part of Trans-Asian Railway Network. Mahisasan (Single Diesel-Line) is a border railway station in India’s side and a defunct railway transit facility point on the India-Bangladesh border in Karimganj district in the Indian state of Assam. The corresponding station on the Bangladesh side is Shahbajpur (also known as Latu) in Sylhet District. The border station is linked to Karimganj 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) away. The Mahisasan-Shahbajpur route has not been operational since December, 1996 due to lack of traffic.

Under the project, about 53 kilometres of duel gauge rail lines, bridges and culverts, stations and infrastructure would be constructed and non-interlocked colour light signaling system will be set up.

The estimated cost of the project is Tk 678.5 crore, of which around Tk 556 crore is line of credit (LOC) loan of Indian government, while the Bangladesh government will give the remaining amount, the release added.

Under the second project, around 10 kilometers of duel gauge rail lines, culverts, passenger platforms, platform shades, customs and immigration buildings and rest houses will be constructed with an estimated cost of about Tk 241 crore. The project will be implemented with Indian grant, the release said.

The third project is the 500MW additional power supply from India to Bangladesh, through the existing Bheramara-Baharampur interconnection. With this, the total amount of electricity exported by India to Bangladesh will reach 1.016GW with Banerjee offering to export another 1,000MW of power. “This quantum jump in electricity export from megawatt to gigawatt is a symbol of the golden chapter in relations between India and Bangladesh,” Modi said.

History

In response to the demand of the Assam tea planters for a railway link to Chittagong port, Assam Bengal Railway started construction of a railway track on the eastern side of Bengal in 1891.  A 150 kilometres (93 mi) track between Chittagong and Comilla was opened to traffic in 1895. The Comilla-Akhaura-Kulaura-Badarpur section was opened in 1896-1898 and finally extended to Lumding in 1903. Mahisasan was a station on this track. With the partition of India in 1947, it assumed importance as a border station.

The Railway Budget for 2011-12 has approved the conversion of the metre gauge Karimganj-Mahisasan section to broad gauge. Now this a broad gauge single track non electrified line. Currently 2 passenger trains are running in this line from Silchar.

Trans-Asian Railway

Currently, all freight traffic originating from Asia destined for Europe goes by sea. The Trans-Asian Railway will enable containers from Singapore, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Korea to travel over land by train to Europe. The Southern Corridor of the Trans-Asian Railway is of prime interest to India. It connects Yunnan in China and Thailand with Europe via Turkey and passes through India.

There is a general understanding between India and Myanmar that their railways will be interconnected via a 346-km line section that will extend from Kalay in Myanmar to Jiribam in India via the border point at Tamu / Moreh.

The proposed route will enter India through Tamu and Moreh in Manipur bordering Myanmar, then enter Bangladesh through Mahisasan and Shahbajpur and again enter India from Bangladesh at Gede. On the western side, the line will enter Pakistan at Attari. There is a 315 kilometres (196 mi) missing link on this route in the India-Myanmar sector; of this, 180 kilometres (110 mi), in India, is between Jiribam in Manipur and Tamu in Myanmar. The rail link between Jiribam and Imphal has been sanctioned by Indian Railways, but that is unlikely to be completed before 2016. At present construction work is in progress in a 97 kilometres (60 mi) stretch between Jiribam and Tupul.

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