Agartala in Tripura comes up on Indian railway map

June 29th, 2008 - 8:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Agartala, June 29 (IANS) Agartala, the capital city of Tripura, Sunday came up as the newest point on the map of the Indian Railways in the country’s northeast. A locomotive of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) chugged into the Agartala railway station, five km from the heart of the capital city, Sunday afternoon with thousands of people cheering and blowing conch shells.

The foundation stone for the 119-km Kumarghat-Agartala railway project was laid in 1996 by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

Routine rail services to Agartala would start by mid-August after clearance from the railway safety commissioner, said P. Shivkumar, general manager (construction) of NFR.

Agartala is the second capital city in the northeast to be connected to the country’s extensive railway network. Assam’s Guwahati was the only norteastern capital on the railway map. After Dispur was constructed as Assam’s new capital complex, Guwahati lost its former status but it remains a major city of the state.

“It took more than four decades to connect the capital city after northern Tripura’s business hub Dharmanagar, 200 km from here, came on the railway map in 1964,” said Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey.

“The NFR has so far spent Rs.8 billion ($190 million) to connect Agartala by rail by making three big tunnels through the Longtharai Valley, Baramura and Atharamura Hills in Dhalai and West Tripura districts,” said NFR deputy chief engineer F.S. Meena.

The 1,962-metre Longtharai tunnel is the longest railway tunnel in eastern India.

According to railway chief engineer B. Chowdhury, the NFR would also start work to lay a new track for the 110-km Agartala-Sabroom line by January next year after completing the final survey.

He said the railways would soon call bids from the construction companies.

Approximately 1,200 acres would be required for the Rs.8.13 billion project to connect Tripura’s southernmost border town Sabroom by rail.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said: “After the Indian Railways extends its line up to Sabroom, it would be very easy to connect with the Chittagong international port in southeast Bangladesh, which is just 75 km from there.”

A small bridge over river Feni can connect Sabroom and Khagrachari, across the border in Bangladesh, to open a second railway link between the two neighbours after the Kolkata-Dhaka rail service, which started April 14 this year after a gap of 43 years.

“After extending the railway line to Sabroom, Tripura and the entire northeast would be linked with Southeast Asia very easily,” the chief minister told IANS.

“The Bangladesh government is actively considering New Delhi’s proposal to allow India to use Chittagong international port for easy communications between the rest of India and northeastern states and Southeast Asian countries,” Sudhakar Dalela, councillor (trade and commerce) of the Indian high commission in Dhaka, said here recently.

Meanwhile, the NFR has already conducted a survey to connect Agartala with Akhaurah railway station in Bangladesh.

The distance between the newly constructed Agartala railway station and Akhaurah railway station, an important rail junction in Bangladesh, is just five kilometres.

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