New Delhi: The Government has planned to connect all State Capitals of North Eastern States (except Sikkim in which case, in first phase, new line work has been sanctioned up to Rangpo) with Indian Railways’ rail network without PPP (Public Private Partnership) mode.
The capitals of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura States have been connected by Broad Gauge (BG) rail network.
Emphasis has been given by Central Government during last 5 years towards quick execution of infrastructure and safety projects, and funding to the infrastructure projects has increased considerably in Indian Railways.
The average annual expenditure in New Line, Gauge Conversion, and Doubling infrastructure projects during 2014-19 was Rs 26,022 crore per year as against Rs 11,527 crore per year during 2009-14, which is around 126% more.
Similarly, the average budget allotment per year for North Eastern States was Rs 2,122 crore per year from 2009-14. However, it increased by 161% to Rs 5,531 crore per year for this region during 2014-19.
In Arunachal Pradesh, a BG railway line was commissioned in February, 2015 upto Naharlagun (suburban city of Itanagar) and first Broad Gauge (BG) train was started on 20 February 2015 from Naharlagun (Itanagar) to New Delhi.
Long pending and delayed work of Bogibeel Bridge on Brahmaputra river was completed in 2018 leading to further reduction of rail travel distance from Dibrugarh to Naharlagun (Itanagar) by 705 km (via Guwahati).
First BG trial train to the State of Tripura (Agartala) was started on 13 January 2016 and first BG passenger train (long distance) was introduced to Delhi on 31 July 2016.
In some States, the progress of new line projects of Capital connectivity has been affected mainly due to delay in land acquisition and law & order issues.
All these Capital connectivity projects being in hilly terrain of the Himalayas involves a large number of tunnels and major bridges, including very tall bridges, in a very challenging geological environment.
Works of new BG lines have been taken up by Railway through Government of India fund to connect the remaining Capitals of North Eastern States i.e. Meghalaya (Shillong), Manipur (Imphal), Nagaland (Kohima), Mizoram (Aizawl) and Sikkim (Gangtok).
Details with present status of these projects are as under:
(1) Manipur: The project of BG line connectivity from Jiribam to Imphal (110.62 km) in Manipur State was sanctioned in 2003-04. The latest anticipated cost of the project is Rs 13,809 crore and expenditure of Rs 8,487.74 crore has been incurred upto March, 2019.
The section from Jiribam to Vangaichungpao (12 km) was commissioned in March 2017, and works from Vangaichungpao-Tupul-Imphal (98.62 km) have been taken up throughout the length.
(2) Mizoram: The project of BG line connectivity from Bhairabi to Sairang (51.38 km) (suburban city of Aizawl, the Capital city of Mizoram) in Mizoram was sanctioned in 2008-09. The latest anticipated cost of the project is Rs 5,021.45 crore and the land could be made available in 2014-15 and work sped up from 2015-16. An expenditure of Rs 2,671.85 crore has been incurred on the project upto March, 2019.
Construction work has been taken up throughout the length of the project and 87% tunneling work has been completed, while work on 6 tall bridges has been taken up.
(3) Nagaland: The project of BG line connectivity from Dimapur (Dhansiri) – Zubza (Kohima) (82.50 km) (suburban city of Kohima, the Capital city of Nagaland) in Nagaland was sanctioned in 2006-07. The latest anticipated cost of the project is Rs 3,000 crore and the work sped up from September, 2018. An expenditure of Rs 729.89 crore has been incurred on the project upto March, 2019.
Construction work has been taken up throughout the length of the project. For complete commission of the project, the work of acquiring balance land in 8 km length has been taken up (ownership disputes occurred). Target for completion for complete project is 3 years after complete land is handed over to Railways.
(4) Meghalaya: Two projects of BG line have been taken up for Capital connectivity of Meghalaya.
(i) New BG line from Tetelia to Byrnihat (21.5 km) in Meghalaya was sanctioned in 2006-07. The latest anticipated cost of the project is Rs 1,532 crore and the work sped up from 2014-15.
A 10 km length of the project falling in Assam State from Tetelia to Kamalajari was completed in October 2018, and expenditure of Rs 581.32 crore has been incurred upto March, 2019.
Some organization is stating that railway connectivity may lead to influx of outsiders and this has led to local resistance to this project in Meghalaya. Target for complete project is 2 years after complete land is physically handed over to Railways.
(ii) New BG line from Byrnihat to Shillong (108.4 km) was sanctioned in 2010-11. The latest anticipated cost of the project is Rs 6,000 crore and an expenditure of Rs 261.03 crore has been incurred on the project up to March, 2019.
Here too, some organization is stating that railway connectivity may lead to influx of outsiders and this has led to local resistance to this project in Meghalaya.
Final Location Survey has not been allowed to be conducted in around 5 km length by local people, who are also not allowing to fix center line pillars in alignment. Hence, a target for completion is not fixed as the same will be decided once the entire land is physically handed over to Railways.
(5) Sikkim: The project of BG line connectivity from Sivok to Rangpo (44.39 km) was sanctioned in 2008-09. The latest anticipated cost of the project is Rs 4,085.69 crore and an expenditure of Rs 645.77 crore has been incurred on the project upto March, 2019.
The project suffered on account of delay in handing over of encumbrance free forest land by Government of West Bengal. However, now the work has been started on the land handed over so far.
Still 26 structures falling in Railway alignment need to be shifted by Government of West Bengal, which is hampering the progress of work. Target for completion of the project is 3 years after complete physical possession of land is given to Railways.
This information was given by the Minister of Railways and Commerce & Industry, Piyush Goyal in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha yesterday.
Earlier yesterday, Goyal said there is no proposal to privatise the operation of Railways, but there is a proposal to outsource the commercial and onboard services of a few trains. He informed the Rajya Sabha that recruitment of 294,000 people in the Railways is underway, and 73,500 have been hired so far.
Earlier in the week, Goyal also said the Railway Ministry is working to double railway lines, but no timeline for completion can be given.
Indus Dictum also reported that in a move to boost tourism in Southern India, the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) has signed an MoU with IRCTC to run the Golden Chariot Train. IRCTC is planning a revamp of the train itineraries, as also to add different flavours that Karnataka has to offer.
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