New Delhi: The Railway ministry has fast-tracked its projects to connect capital cities of North East with rail network following which the Seven Sisters will be directly linked with other states by March 2022. Expansion of rail link in North-East will also bring India closer to its neighbours in Asean and Bimstec groupings, giving a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regional connectivity plans.
Officials in the railway ministry said that with the issue of land acquisition almost resolved now, Sikkim (through Rangpo) will be directly linked with Sevok (near Siliguri) in West Bengal with a 45 km rail line and Nagaland will be connected through a link between Dimapur-Zubza near Kohima.
“There are land acquisition issues and the extremely challenging terrain in the entire Northeast which we have to deal with while taking on such projects. However, we have already completed 45 per cent of the work in projects of the North East,” said a senior official.
Officials said that work on the new broad gauge lines to connect Shillong (Meghalaya), Imphal (Manipur ), and Aizawl (Mizoram) is expected to be completed by 2020. The capitals of Assam (Guwahati), Arunachal Pradesh (Itanagar) and Tripura (Agartala) have already been connected by broad gauge rail network.
“North East is the focus of the government. Total 24 projects worth Rs 85,000 crores have been sanctioned for the North East. Out of these are 16 new lines, 2 gauge conversions and six doubling. Work on doubling on the six routes and gauge conversion is complete,” said the official.
Railways is making several bridges and tunnels to spread its network in the hilly terrain of North East. World’s tallest pier bridge, being made in Manipur, will be ready by March 2022. The pier bridge is 141 mt tall is being constructed on the 111km Noney-Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal line.
In view of India’s `Neighbourhood First’ policy, the Railways is also doing international projects funded by Ministry of External Affairs. Officials said 60 per cent work is complete on the Jogbani-Biratnagar (Nepal), Agartala to Akhaura (Bangladesh) 15 new lines. Indian Railways is also doing restoration of Haldibari (India)- Chilahati (Bangladesh) while work is complete in Indian portion of Radhikapur (India) to Birol (Bangladesh) (9 km) line.