Agartala: The government would spend Rs.8.5 lakh crore to overhaul the Indian Railways, Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha said here on Wednesday.
"The government has decided to invest Rs.8.5 lakh crore in the next five years to change the entire face of the Indian Railways," Sinha said at a function held to receive the first broad-gauge trial train on the newly laid Badarpur (Assam)-Agartala railway line.
"After completion of the remaining broad gauge line work, and necessary clearance from the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) by March 31, regular train services would start immediately," he said.
In the presence of thousands of people, the central minister accompanied by Tripura's PWD and Health Minister Badal Choudhury and Transport Minister Manik Dey received a seven-bogie trial train decked with flowers.
Sinha told reporters that the ongoing work to lay the new railway line up to southern Tripura's Sabroom bordering Bangladesh would be completed by December 2017.
From Sabroom, the Chittagong sea port is just 72 km away, and the Indian government has decided to construct a bridge over the Feni river to link the northeast region with the port in southeastern Bangladesh.
The 437-km Lumding-Silchar and Badarpur-Agartala gauge conversion work was sanctioned in 1996. It was declared a national project in 2004, thereby ensuring uninterrupted funding from the general budget.
In the first phase, the 210-km Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion project was completed early last year, and in the second phase the 227-km Badarpur-Agartala gauge conversion was undertaken. It was scheduled to be completed in March but wast completed three months earlier.
With the completion of gauge conversion work right up to Agartala, the Tripura capital is now connected with the country's broad gauge railway network through Guwahati with a distance of around 600 km.
The newly laid broad-gauge line links the Guwahati-Lumding rail line with Silchar, Badarpur and Agartala.
The Lumding-Silchar metre-guage track was in operation from 1899, while Tripura came on the Indian Railway map in 1964 through metre-gauge track.
This railway connectivity is the lifeline for millions in Tripura, western Manipur and eastern Mizoram besides southern Assam.
Agartala came up on the rail map only in 2008.
Southern Assam's Barak Valley was brought on the broad-gauge rail map on November 21 last year, with Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu flagging off a regular passenger train.
Northeast Frontier Railway general manager H.K. Jaggi said Rs.7,751 crore was spent to lay the broad gauge track in the Badarpur-Agartala sector.
The Badarpur-Agartala line has five tunnels and 461 major and minor bridges. While the longest tunnel is about 2 km long, there are a record 161 curvings in the line.