The Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR), which operates trains and executes projects partially in Bihar and West Bengal besides the northeastern states, will link India with Bangladesh and Nepal via rail in the next nine months.
According to railway officials, the NFR is now executing two international railway projects -- the 12.03-km long new broad gauge railway line from Agartala (Tripura) to Akhaura in Bangladesh and the 18.6-km long railway line from Jogbani (Bihar) to Biratnagar in Nepal.
NFR's spokesman (Construction Organisation) Jayanta Kumar Sarma said that with an estimated cost of Rs 967.5 crore, the Agartala-Akhaura railway project would be completed by September next year while the Jogbani-Nepal project, with an estimated cost of Rs 374 crore, would be finalised by July 2021.
"The first phase of the two international railway projects is either completed or just about to complete. Work on both the railway projects is going on in full swing. Once the two projects are completed, railway connectivity would bring great change in the land locked northeastern states and in eastern India with its neighbours - Bangladesh and Nepal," Sarma told IANS.
He said that the first phase construction of Nischintapur Yard of the Agartala-Akhaura railway project, which was sanctioned in the 2012-13 railway budget, is nearing completion and the second phase of the project, the 3.46-km railway line from Nischintapur to Akhaura is targeted for completion by September next year.
About the Jogbani-Nepal project, the NFR spokesman said that the first phase of the 8-km railway line from Bathnaha to Nepal Customs point has been completed and the remaining portion of the project from Nepal Customs point to Biratnagar is targeted for completion by July 2021. The Nepal project was sanctioned in the 2010-11 railway budget.
The NFR, one among the 17 railway zones in India, operates fully and partially in six of the eight northeastern states, excluding Meghalaya and Sikkim, and in seven districts of West Bengal and five districts of north Bihar.
The Agartala-Akhaura railway line would facilitate ferrying of goods to and from both the countries and greatly benefit India's land-locked north-eastern states.
The journey time between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh would be reduced by a third, from the existing 1,613-km through mountainous terrain via Assam to only 514-km.
The Agartala-Akhaura railway project was finalised in January 2010 when Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina met her then Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh during her visit to New Delhi.
The government-owned IRCON International Limited (IRCON), under the Ministry of Railways, was carrying out the construction work of the project.
According to the another senior railway official, six of the eight northeastern states' capital cities will come on the Indian railway map by March 2023.
The NFR, which has already connected Assam's main city Guwahati (adjoining capital Dispur), Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh's capital cities, is laying tracks to connect the capital cities of three more northeastern states - Imphal (Manipur), Aizawl (Mizoram) and Kohima (Nagaland) -- by March 2023.
The first train in the northeast region of India chugged out from the industrial city of Dibrugarh in eastern Assam 138 years ago.