The railways have decided to construct an underground railway station at Teesta along the Sevoke-Rangpo rail link to Sikkim, 86 per cent of which will run through tunnels.
The railways and Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) officials on Wednesday held a meeting in Darjeeling where it was decided that the hill body would grant within this week a no-objection certificate (NOC) to start the project pending since 2009.
“Keeping in mind national interest and security concerns, the GTA has decided to grant a no-objection certificate to the railways within this week. Our demand for three railway stations on our side has not only been accepted but the railways have also decided to add one more station. All our concerns, like launching social welfare schemes for the population, along the route has also been agreed,” GTA chairman Binay Tamang said after the meeting on Wednesday.
Of the 44.98km link, 41.45km will fall within the GTA area and 3.51km in Sikkim.
The four railway stations in GTA area will be set up at Sevok, Riyang, Teesta and Malli. “While the three stations will be overground, the station at Teesta will be underground,” said Tamang. Another station will come up at Rangpo in Sikkim.
This would be the first underground railway station in north Bengal. “Of the 44.98km, 38.64km, or 86 per cent of the route, will pass through 14 tunnels, the longest of which will be 5.13km,” said A. Prakash, chief administrative officer, Northeast Frontier Railway. The tunnels will be dug at a depth of 1000 metres in certain places.
Prakash said New Austrian Tunnelling (NATM) technology would be used. “NATM technology has been successfully used in Kashmir, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya among others,” said Prakash. More than 37 tunnels have been dug using this technology in Manipur.
Tamang said that villagers would not have to be resettled as the railway link was mostly underground.
“The villagers are raising the issue of granting land rights but this is not related with the project. Forest villagers in Jalpaiguri have been granted land rights. Things are now getting normal in the hills and we will take up the issue of granting forest rights to the villagers with the state government soon,” said Tamang.
Work on the project is likely to start within six months and is scheduled to be completed within a period of four years.
In 2009, the project cost was estimated at Rs 1339.48 crore but the figure had escalated to Rs 4084.64 crore six years later in 2015.
Railway officials said that a survey to extend the rail link between Rangpo and Gangtok has been completed.