Bangladesh Government nod for construction of Akhaura-Agartala rail link
NEW DELHI: In a move that will bring the north eastern state of Tripura closer to the mainland, the Bangladesh government has given approval for the rail link between Akhaura in its territory and the state capital of Agartala.
The 1700 km distance between Agartala and Kolkata which goes through the 'chicken's neck' in Siliguri would be reduced to 550 km once this rail link comes into existence by next year. The approval of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC), chaired by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is a big boost to the project that has been facing hurdles in terms of land acquisition.
According to Bangladesh officials, "The approval came for the project that falls on our side. Out of the proposed 15.054 km, nearly 10 kilometres dual gauge line will be laid down on Bangladesh territory." The railway track will be extended to the southern-most town of Tripura - Sabroom that is only 75 km from the Chittagong port.
The project is expected to cost Rs 1,000 crore and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) will provide requisite funds to the Bangladesh government. "So far the cost of doing business in the north-east is much higher due to the lack of connectivity. Reduced distant to Kolkata and accessibility to an international port will woo lot of investors," MEA sources said. The project ran into land acquisition problems on the Indian side, the sources added.
"The Tripura government is soon going to start sending out notices for acquiring land. Plans are afoot as well to build a flyover in the region to save some arable land," the sources said.
There were some reservations among local politicians about the modalities of travel. "Many state leaders were concerned about if the residents of Agartala will have to take visa before travel through Bangladesh, or are they supposed to carry passports. These details are also being fleshed out," said the sources.
Partition had rendered the two countries disconnected. The rail project, that can be considered a Trans Asia Rail line, will be a shot in the arm for the connectivity in the region. Presently India and Bangladesh have four rail links with West Bengal.