IN THE OFFING

The new Akhaura rail line will reduce journey time between Agartala and Kolkata to 10 hours from 31 hours as the distance between the two places will be reduced to 550 km from 1600 km at present

The railway project connecting Agartala in Tripura with Akhaura in Bangladesh was conceptualised in the year 2010. Later, both India and Bangladesh signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the construction of railway project in February 2013.

The rail link project would provide connectivity between Akhaura in Bangladesh with the capital city of Tripura, Agartala through Nischintapur in the Indo-Bangla border. Akhaura is linked to Dhaka-Chittagong rail route. The railway line will connect Indian Railways with Bangladesh Railways for improved connectivity and boost trade between the two countries and will connect West Bengal and Tripura through Bangladesh.

The ground-breaking ceremony for the construction on Agartala-Akhura rail link began in September 2018. The rail link is expected to be completed by 2021.

India and Bangladesh currently have four operational rail links between West Bengal and western Bangladesh – Petrapole-Benapole, Gede-Darshana, Radhikapur-Biral and Singhabad- Rohanpur. Radhikapur-Biral and Singhabad-Rohanpur.

Agartala-Akhaura rail link project details

The railway project is being constructed with an estimated cost of `972.52 crore including `580 crore allotted for the construction of 5.6km of track within India, and `392 crore allotted for 6.57km rail track in Bangladesh. The funding for the rail link project on Indian side is provided by the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), while the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is financing it on the Bangladesh side.

Other than the railway project, a bridge is also being built over River Feni which would connect Sabroom in southern Tripura with Feni district of Bangladesh. Once it becomes functional, Tripura would be only 66 km away from Bangladesh’s Chittagong port. With these two big projects, the government of Tripura hopes that the state will turn into ‘gateway for Northeast’.

Adventz Group’s Texmaco Rail & Engineering Limited was given `200 crore worth of the Agartala-Akhaura rail construction contract in May 2018 by the Indian Railway Construction Company Limited (IRCON). The company’s specialised engineering, procurement and construction unit Kalindee Railway Nirman (Engineers) Ltd is executing the project. The scope works include construction of railway stations and associated work in cross-border areas of India and Bangladesh. The track-laying would be as per the high standards of railway construction specifications and with the ability to carry 25-tonne axle load to enable transportation of heavy goods and commodities between the countries.

Benefits of Agartala-Akhaura rail link

The new Akhaura rail line will reduce journey time between Agartala and Kolkata to 10 hours from 31 hours as the distance between the two places will be reduced to 550 km from 1600 km at present. Kolkata is a major destination for people in Agartala, but there is no direct connectivity to the city. The new railway line will help not only people from Agartala but also those from Mizoram which is 150 km away. It will cut through Dhaka instead of Guwahati and will help in freight movement as well as goods from the northeastern state, while goods from Chittagong port will reach Agartala quicker.

The rail link will boost bilateral trade and cooperation between India and Bangladesh and will also affect ‘transformation through transportation’. The Agartala-Akhaura rail link will offer full connectivity from east to west of Bangladesh. For Tripura, the railway line will mean enhancing regional access in ways other than by air or the states national highway, NH44.

Once it becomes functional, Tripura would be only 66 km away from Bangladesh’s Chittagong port and Tripura will turn into ‘gateway for Northeast’.