Agartala, Oct 30: Ahead of the possible inauguration of a new railway line -- Akhaura-Agartala -- between India and Bangladesh by the Prime Ministers of the two countries on November 1, a Bangladeshi goods train as part of the trial run entered Tripura territory on Monday.
A Bangladeshi train with four goods laden wagons entered at Nischintpur railway station, one km inside into the Indian territory of Tripura from the India-Bangladesh border.
Railway officials said that the trial operation of the goods train was successful on the newly built 15.064-km long Akhaura (Bangladesh)-Agartala (Tripura, India) rail link project.
A government official said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina are likely to jointly inaugurate the railway project on November 1 along with 1320 MW generation capacity Maitree Super Thermal Power project at Rampal in Bangladesh’s Khulna division and 86.87 km long Khulna-Mongla port rail line project.
Modi and Hasina would likely jointly virtually inaugurate the Akhaura-Agartala new railway line (5.05 km in India and 10.014 km in Bangladesh) which linked with Bangladesh’s railway station Akhaura through an international immigration station at Nischintapur in western Tripura.
Funded by India, the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) is the nodal agency of the Rs 1,000 crore Agartala-Akhaura railway project, which was finalised in January 2010 when Bangladesh Prime Minister Hasina met then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during her visit to New Delhi.
The Agartala-Akhaura railway project, which is a dual gauge station for both passenger and goods interchange between India and Bangladesh would enable people of the northeastern states, especially Tripura, and southern part of Assam and Mizoram, to visit Kolkata by rail saving 22 hours of travel time.
Railway officials said that the Indian Railways portion has a broad gauge system while the portion in Bangladesh is a metre gauge system.
Currently, the people of the region, especially those in Tripura and its adjoining areas, go to Kolkata via Guwahati by rail, spending more than 38 hours.
The project is part of India’s 'Act East Policy', which aims to promote economic cooperation and develop strategic ties with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The Northeast has been earmarked as a priority region in this policy.
The Agartala-Akhaura railway line is the first railway line between India’s northeast and Bangladesh, though there are few rail links between West Bengal and Bangladesh. These include Gede-Darshana, Benapole-Petrapole, Singhabad-Rohanpur, Radhikapur-Birol and Haldibari-Chilahati.
At present, the rail route from Agartala to Kolkata is around 1600 kilometres, parts of which are mountainous and takes around 40 hours to reach Kolkata from Agartala.
The footfall of passengers from Tripura, southern Assam, Mizoram and adjoining areas and to Kolkata is significantly very high due to various reasons including linguistic similarity, medical treatment, education, business and tourism.
The Ministry of DoNER (Development of North Eastern Region) has funded the railway line from Agartala to Nischintpur; whereas the Ministry of External Affairs has funded for the rail line from Nischintpur to Gangasagar station in Bangladesh. (IANS)