The Centre has plans to connect the Indian Railways with Asian countries for effective implementation of the BJP-led government’s Act East Policy, Union Minister Rajen Gohain said on Friday. He also said that India is more strongly connected with Asian nations than China in terms of traditional and cultural bonding since ages unknown. “India has been the mother of culture and traditional heritage across the entire Asian region. India is the heart of entire Asia”, he said.
The North Eastern Region is being connected with neighbouring Bangladesh through the Agartala-Akhaura rail line, and survey was underway in Manipur for extension of railways up to Moreh on the India-Myanmar border, he said.
Tripura’s capital on Friday was linked with Bengaluru by “Humsafar Express”, becoming the second city in the northeast to get a newly introduced train, equipped with modern facilities. Gohain, the Union Minister of State for Railways, was speaking at the flagging-off ceremony of the Agartala-Bengaluru Cant Hamsafar Express from the Agartala railway station here. Friday’s event was a formal inaugural and services for the public will start on January 9. The weekly train will link the two state capitals via Kamakhya, Howrah, Cuttack and Vijayawada.
He said that the entire North Eastern Region was growing fast in terms of rail and road connectivity due to centre’s Act East Policy.
Gohain, however, said rail works were progressing faster in Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram, but progress in Sikkim and Meghalaya was slow owing to land acquisition problems.
The Agartala-Bengaluru Cant Hamsafar Express, with 11 air-conditioned three-tier coaches, would initially run once a week, but the frequency would be increased within a short span, the minister said.
It would cover a distance of over 3,000 km in 64 hours.
The Rajdhani Express, which also runs once in a week, would be made more frequent, he said.
Gohain added that work for electrification of 30,000 km tracks across the country is underway to make trains faster and modern.
“By 2020 all the remaining state capitals would be linked by broad gauge railway line.” The capitals of Agartala, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam are already connected by broad gauge railway lines. Works for extension of railway lines in Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland are going on with top priority basis, while in Sikkim and Meghalaya, some land related problems have become a hurdle.
The 3,030 km train service was launched from Kamakhya (near Guwahati) to Bengaluru on December 25, 2016. Now it has been extended to Agartala.
According to the Northeast Frontier Railways’ (NFR) General Manager Chahatey Ram, the train, the first connecting southern India with Tripura, will halt at seven stations between Agartala and Guwahati and at 28 stations in between Agartala and Bengaluru Cantonment station in its 3,614 km long journey across six states.
The Humsafar Express train, which is a fully AC 3-tier service, has 14 coaches, provided with on board Wi-fi and infotainment, he said.
“Better than the Rajdhani Express, ‘Humsafar Express ‘ train coaches are equipped with facilities like GPS (Global Positioning System) based passenger information system, and fire and smoke detectors,” said Ram, adding that they will also have mobile charging points and reading lights for each passenger along with easy upper berth climbing arrangement.
The Humsafar Express, promised in the budget, will also have facilities like baby nappy changing pads, and tea and coffeemakers.
The railway authorities since 2016 are operating the Kanchanjunga Express — between Agartala and Sealdah (Kolkata) via Assam’s Silchar and Guwahati twice a week, and the weekly Tripura Sundari Express between Agartala and Delhi’s Anand Vihar station besides Rajdhani Express.
The NFR is now extending the railway lines up to southern Tripura’s border town Sabroom, 135 km south of Agartala.
Gohain, in the presence of Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey and other Members of Parliament, also flagged-off the passenger train services on the newly-laid 9.2 km track between southern Tripura’s temple city Udaipur and Garjee.
This new broad gauge section is a part of Agartala-Sabroom railway project being executed to get access the Bangladesh’s Chittagong sea port, which is just 72 km away from Sabroom.