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.

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