How new train via Dhaka will cut the Agartala-Kolkata journey from 31 to 10 hours

  sophia sophia   6164   01 Nov, 2023 

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Akhaura-Agartala Cross-Border Rail Link rail link, the first connecting Bangladesh and northeast India. This will drastically cut down travel between Kolkata and Agartala and boost trade Prime Minister Narendra Modi is big on infrastructure. The latest development project aims to improve connectivity on the Indo-Bangla international train route. Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday jointly inaugurated three projects – the Akhaura-Agartala Cross-Border Rail Link, Khulna-Mongla Port Rail Line, and Unit 2 of the Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant in Bangladesh’s Rampal — via video conferencing. “It is a matter of happiness that we have come together to celebrate the success of India-Bangladesh cooperation. Our relations are touching new heights,” said PM Modi said in an interaction with Hasina. The inaugural ceremony was also joined by Tripura Chief Minister Dr Manik Saha. “Today, the inauguration of the Akhaura-Agartala rail link is a historic moment… This is the first rail link between Bangladesh and the North Eastern states of India… Tripura has had a strong bond with Bangladesh since the days of its Liberation struggle,” he added. What is the rail link hailed by PM Modi? And how will it benefit the two nations? We explain What we know about the rail project The railway link is 12.24 km including a 5.46 km dual gauge line on the Indian side and 6.7 km in Bangladesh. It connects Bangladesh’s Akhuara in the Brahmanbaria district through an international immigration station at Nischintapur on the outskirts of Agartala, which is India’s last railway station along the Indo-Bangla border. During the British colonial era, Akhaura was the railway link for Agartala. Sanctioned during the year 2012-13, the foundation stone for the Agartala-Akhaura rail link was laid in July 2016. It comprises a major bridge and three minor ones. The rail project cost Rs 862.58 crore as per official estimates. It was supposed to be completed in 2020 but was delayed because of the pandemic and land acquisition issues. The final cost is estimated to be higher. The project cost was borne by the Indian government. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) funded the work from Nischintapur to Gangasagar, which is the last station in Bangladesh before the international border, and the Ministry of Development of the North Eastern Region funded the stretch from Agartala railway station to Nischintapur. Why is this rail project significant? Tripura shares an 856-km border with Bangladesh. There is only one road route that connects to state to the rest of India. This is through Assam and a narrow strip of land in West Bengal’s Siliguri known popularly as the “Chicken’s Neck”. There is rail connectivity (through the same route) and flights. The new 15-km rail link will significantly reduce the travel time between Agartala and Kolkata via Dhaka. Bangladesh is located in the middle of the land mass between India’s northeast and the rest of the country. Hence, passengers now take a long 1,600-kilometre route via northern Bengal to Assam’s Guwahati. It then turns southwards towards Tripura. The route between Agartala to Kolkata takes 31 hours. But with the opening of the new railway line, the travel time is expected to reduce to 10 to 12 hours. People from Tripura who avoided travelling to Kolkata because of this daunting distance will now find the new route convenient. It will also benefit those from Bangladesh who want to travel to India. The new rail route will also help goods trains reach the northeast via Bangladesh at a lesser transportation cost. It will also provide a direct connection between Tripura and Bangladesh’s Chittagong port. Is the route open to passengers? Not yet. The line for now is open only for goods trains. Before the first trial on Monday, Sunindra Chaudhury, an executive engineer of the Indian Railways, told The Indian Express, “For goods trains, the line will be opened very soon but for passenger trains, there are some formalities that need to be observed by the Indian Railways and the Bangladesh Railway Board.” The official also said that it would take another one or two months to connect to the Agartala railway station. What happened during the trial? The first trial of a goods train was successfully conducted between Tripura and Bangladesh on Monday. The train started from the Gangasagar railway station on the Bangladesh side and reached Nischintapur in Tripura. Talking to the media, Chaudhury said, “This is the first goods train running on metre gauge entering Nischintapur from Bangladesh. The distance from Gangasagar to here is 6.1 km and the total project length is 12.24 km including 5.46 km on the Indian side and 6.7 km in Bangladesh. Gangasagar is the first station (on the Bangladesh side) that connects India via Nischintapur. The first trial run was successful.” The trial train started from Gangasagar railway station and reached Akhaura railway station. It has 14 to 15 people on board, railway officials and personnel.

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