Nagpur: World’s biggest narrow gauge network, which part of South East Central Railway’s Nagpur division, is set to become history. Of the 188.91km longest Balaghat-Nainpur-Jabalpur section, trains will stop running on 110km section between Jabalpur and Nainpur from October 1 for conversion to broad gauge. The narrow gauge network of SECR, Nagpur division, at present comprises 628km.
Earlier, the 227km Gondia-Balaghat-Nainpur-Jabalpur narrow gauge section was the longest. Of this, 42km section between Gondia and Balaghat was converted to broad gauge in 2005-06. The 77km section between Balaghat-Nainpur will close from November 1. Other sections that will also close from November 1 include Chhindwara-Nainpur (141km) and Nainpur-Mandla (42km). However, the Nagpur-Chhindwara section (148km) will only close from December 1 and not November 1 as declared earlier by the railways.
There are no plans at present to convert the Nagpur-Nagbhid section on which trains will continue to operate as usual. SECR’s senior divisional commercial manager (SrDCM) Tanmay Mukhopadhyay said, “It was necessary to close down the sections to start physical work (of gauge conversion).” Mandla MP Faggan Singh Kulaste in the presence of SECR general manager Satyendra Kumar on Sunday laid the stone for broad gauge line between Nainpur and Jabalpur.
The SECR GM said after commissioning of broad gauge, the running time between Nagpur-Chhindwara, Chhindwara-Nainpur and Nainpur-Jabalpur will be reduce to maximum 2.30 hours and between Nainpur-Balaghat to 1.30 hrs. Besides, an alternative route between Amla to Nagpur will be available on Nagpur-Itarsi trunk route.
According to SECR, the gauge conversion project for Gondia-Jabalpur section was included in 1996-97 budget with an estimated cost of Rs386 crore. Today the cost has escalated to Rs1,713.73 crore. Till August 2015, Rs792.85 crore have already been spent on it.
Mukhopadhyay said SECR has set a target of December 2016 to complete the 110km project and December 2017 for Balaghat-Nainpur. However, sources working on the project said looking at the pace of work it seems difficult to achieve. The 42-km section between Gondia and Balaghat took over a decade to complete. “It will be impossible to complete the present project by 2017,” railway officials themselves admit.
According to sources, the section between Balaghat and Nainpur is part of the Kanha-Pench corridor and the railways require diversion of 75 hectare reserve forest for which clearance is yet to come. The Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, has submitted a report suggesting underpasses of 30 metres at vulnerable sections.
Year Announced: 1996-97
Work Done: Gondia-Balaghat 42km (2005-06)
Present Cost: Rs1713.73 cr
Amount Spent: Rs792.85 cr
Current Status: Operation between Jabalpur-Nainpur to shut from Oct 1, 2015