Tripura CM flags off train services linking border town
Connectivity with B’desh port to bring rapid growth, says Biplab
Agartala, Oct. 3 (IANS): Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb on Thursday flagged-off passenger train services in the Dharmanagar-Agartala-Sabroom section connecting a border town along Bangladesh and the state’s second largest commercial town adjoining Assam.
The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) after introducing the Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) train services last year in eastern Assam’s industrial areas Dibrugarh and central Assam’s Nagaon, launched the services in Tripura, the second northeastern state.
With the extension of train services up to Sabroom (135 km south of Agartala), the seven north-eastern states now would be able to access Bangladesh’s Chittagong international sea port, which is just around 70 km from Tripura, for carrying goods and machinery avoiding the existing surface roads passing through the mountainous terrain.
The NFR’s Chief Public Relations Officer, Subhanan Chanda said that the DEMU trains’ inherent advantages with quick acceleration and retardation provisions make them ideal to ply as shuttles between stations located at short intervals.
“As the DEMU trains, already plying in metropolitan and busiest cities in the country, can ply in both directions, it does not require any cumbersome reversal at terminal stations. The coaches are also better adopted with more seating capacity,” he added.
The chief minister said that with the extension of the railway network, transportation between the north-eastern states and the rest of India would be easier as the region would now be able to utilise Bangladeshi ports and railway networks.
“Connectivity between north-eastern states and rest of the country through north Bengal (via Siliguri corridor) is treacherous due to mountainous terrain, time consuming and expensive while transportation through Bangladesh is much easier, time saving and inexpensive,” Deb pointed out.
He said that with the expansion of the railway network in Tripura and other north-eastern states and with the utilisation of the Bangladeshi road and railway network, tourism would be boosted in the picturesque and unexplored northeast India.
There will be eight coaches in each DEMU train to be plied twice a day in the Dharmanagar-Agartala-Sabroom section.
The NFR, one among the 17 railway zones in India, is responsible for extending the railway lines and maintaining train services in seven districts of West Bengal and five districts in north Bihar, besides the eight north-eastern states, including Sikkim.
The NFR has laid new railway tracks at three places along the India-Bangladesh border — Agartala, Sabroom and Belonia.
The INR 972-crore Agartala (Tripura) and Akhaura (Bangladesh) project is now under construction and these railway lines would facilitate the carriage of passengers and goods from the north-eastern states through the Bangladesh railway network.
Spending INR 1,150 crore, the NFR has extended the 110-km railway lines up to two bordering sub-divisional towns — Sabroom and Belonia — both cities situated along the Bangladesh border, facilitating the link with the railway networks of the neighbouring country.
With southern Tripura’s Sabroom located around 70 km from the Chittagong sea port in southeastern Bangladesh, India has already got Bangladesh’s in-principle consent to use the international port to ferry goods to and from the north-eastern states.
A senior official said that the NFR is trying hard to extend the railway lines to three more capital cities of the northeast — Imphal (Manipur), Aizawl (Mizoram) and Kohima (Nagaland) by 2020.
Assam’s main city of Guwahati, Tripura capital Agartala and Arunachal capital Itanagar are already linked to the railway network.
Immediately after flagging off the passenger train services at the Agartala railway station, the Chief Minister left for Delhi, where he would meet Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Hasian arrived in New Delhi on Thursday on a four-day visit to India and she will hold talks with her Indian counterpart during which several bilateral agreements are set to be inked.
“After Petrapole-Benapole border (along West Bengal), Bangladesh has recently allowed India to export 13 more items through the Tripura borders. I would approach Hasina to allow export of more items including tea through the state borders. Tripura has 54 big tea gardens facilitating huge employment,” said Deb, who also holds the Industries and Commerce portfolios.
He said that the under construction bridge over Feni river in southern Tripura would be completed by next year and linking of the north-eastern state with Chittagong port and other parts of Bangladesh would be easier, time and cost saving.
“India and Bangladesh already in-principle agreed to make a new waterway between Tripura and Cumilla in the eastern part of that country. I would also discuss the matter with Hasina,” he added.
Union Minister of State for Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya in a recent letter to the Tripura Chief Minister had said that after taking a view on the recommendations of the Joint Technical Committee (JTC) of India and Bangladesh, his ministry had, through India’s High Commissioner in Dhaka, requested the Bangladesh government to accord in-principle approval for inclusion of the Sonamura (Tripura, India)-Daudkandi (Bangladesh) stretch of the Gomati river as part of the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (water) route.
“After getting confirmation from Bangladesh, the Sonamura-Daudkandi (in Cumilla district of eastern Bangladesh) stretch would be included as part of the India-Bangladesh Protocol Route in the second addendum to PIWTT (Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade) to be signed in the next Shipping Secretary level talks between the two countries,” the Union Minister had said.
In his letter, a copy of which is available with IANS, Mandaviya told Deb that the movement of vessels on the Gomati river between India and Bangladesh for providing waterway connectivity to Tripura would be possible only after inclusion of the Sonamura-Daudkandi stretch as part of the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol route.
Four Indian land-locked north-eastern states of Tripura (856 km), Meghalaya (443 km), Mizoram (318 km) and Assam (263 km) share a 1,880-km border with Bangladesh.