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Indian Railway is likely to spend almost Rs 90,000 crore to improve connectivity in the North East by 2020, including a 795-km railway line in Arunachal Pradesh that will provide accessibility right up to the China border, and connections between the capitals of all North Eastern states.
“We have set a target of 2020 to connect these state capitals to the main railway network. Once these are complete, new trains which would directly link these to the metros will be introduced. This will not only help regional connectivity within these states, but also bring NE closer to the rest of India,” said A K Yadav, Chief Administrative Officer (Construction), NFR.
While Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura are connected by rail, the capitals of Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Sikkim and Nagaland are not. Of these, Mizoram capital Aizawl is likely to be connected first with the new line between Bhairabi and Sairang (51.38km) in advanced stage of construction.
For providing connectivity to Gangtok, work up to Rangpo has been sanctioned which is around 40 km short of the Assam capital and for Nagaland, NFR is building the Dhansiri-Sukhobi-Zubza 91.75 km line with 90 bridges and around 26 km of tunnels connecting it to Assam.
“Sairang is approximately 18 km from Aizawl. We have no presence in Sikkim so far and to provide connectivity to Gangtok, work up to Rangpo has been sanctioned. Rangpo is around 40km short of Gangtok and work between Gangtok and Rangpo will be taken up in phase two,” said AK Yadav. Indian Railways is waiting for a clearance for some of the other lines.
While Guwahati and Itanagar are already connected to the national network, the capital towns of Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Meghalaya have now been taken up for linkages.
Manipur will be connected through a 111-km-long line from Jiribam to Imphal with 37 tunnels and 22 bridges, the capital city of Mizoram will be on the railways’ map through a 52-km new line between Sairang near Aizawl and Bairabi bordering Assam.
Progress in the Byrnihat-Shillong corridor in Meghalaya was affected due to opposition from the Khasi Student Union. The railway is yet to receive a no objection certificate for land acquisition, which has not been given so far by Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council.
In Sikkim, Indian Railways is awaiting clearance from the forest department but is hopeful of completing all the projects by 2020.
On the international front, close to China border, Railways has undertaken final land survey of three different lines and will submit the report to the Ministry of Defence.
“Owing to long international border, northeast region has huge requirement for providing railway network from strategic considerations. MoD has identified 14 projects across the country of which four were selected as priority corridors. Except for Pathankot-Leh, the other three projects fall in the northeast region,” Yadav added.
The lines once commissioned will also help the movement of foodgrain, cement, sugar and other utilities to the northeast and will give a huge boost to tourism.