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.


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