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India wants Tripura-Bangladesh railway link in 2022

India wants a railway link to be established between its northeast state Tripura and Bangladesh at the start of 2022, the 75th year of its independence. To that end, implementation of the project for constructing a railroad from Bangladesh’s Akhaura in Brahmanbaria to Agartala in Tripura has been accelerated.  This was stated recently by the Indian minister for the development of the northeast region (DoNER), Jeetendra Singh.

Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly has said that construction of the railroad will be completed by next year. She said this after visiting the construction site on the Bangladesh side on 13 February.

Under the project, the railroad to be constructed from Akhaura to Agartala is only 15 km. It will facilitate travel to seven states of India’s northeast region. It will cut down the travel distance between Tripura and Kolkata from 1650 km to only 515 km.

On the Bangladesh side, this project has 10 km of railroad. This will start from Akhaura’s Gangasagar railway station, proceed via Akhaura railway junction station up till Shibnagar along the Indian border.

The 5 km of railroad within India stretches from the border-lying Nischintpur of Tripura up till the Agartala railway station. Nischintpur will be the border station of the two countries.

Bangladesh’s prime minister Sheikh Hasina and India’s prime minister Narendra Modi on 10 September 2018 officially inaugurated the project through a video call. Prior to that, on 12 January 2010 Sheikh Hasina and India’s prime minister at the time, Manmohan Singh, signed an agreement regarding the Akhaura-Agartala railway link. It was said that this railway link would strengthen ties between the two countries.

Project sources said that broad gage rail tracks would be laid from the Agartala railway station to Nishchintpur. From Nischintpur till Akhaura, dual gage would be laid. A railway yard with modern facilities would be established at Nishchintpur from the loading and unloading of goods.

Jeetendra Singh has spoken of increased trade between India and Bangladesh due to this railway link. He told the Delhi-based The Indian Express that the Modi government had placed priority on the development of northeastern states. There had previously been inadequate railway facilities in the region. The people of Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya hadn’t even seen a train there. But now there was the Arunachal Express train traveling from Itanagar in Arunachal to New Delhi. Dual gage rail tracks were being laid in the entire region.

Project costs have been estimated at 980 crore rupees. The cost for the 5km within India has been estimated at 580 crore rupees and the 10 km within Bangladesh at 400 crore rupees (Tk 477.81 crore approximately). India will provide a Tk 420.76 (approx.) grant. The remaining Tk 57.52 (approx.) will be borne by the Bangladesh government.

Jeetendra Sing said that land for the project had been acquired and handed over to the agencies implementing the project. On the Tripura side the railway line is being laid by the Indian Railway Construction Company Limited (IRCON) under the Indian railway ministry.

On the Bangladesh side, the work has been undertaken from July 2016 by the Bangladesh railway ministry’s ‘Akhaura-Agartala Dual Gage Rail Link Constriction’ project. Project director Md Subaktagin has said that 40 per cent progress has been made on the project so far. The project term was up till June this year, but has now been extended till the year 2021.