The tracks that survived the partition of India in 1947 and the Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971 are set to be revived.
On his visit to Agartala for a two-day programme called Setubandhan or bridge of bonding, Mujibul Haque Mujib, Bangladesh’s railway minister, announced that the country would restore railway lines at 12 places between the two countries which were discontinued after the partition and wars.
The idea behind this project is to promote stronger ties between the two countries. “This is to improve people-to-people contact and boost bilateral trade,” he told HT.
These tracks that once chronicled the ties between the two countries, lay abandoned after India converted the meter gauge lines that are narrow and 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) or 2 ft (610 mm) in dimension to broad gauge that are around 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in).
The discussion about the lack of railway connectivity also surfaced during a dialogue between Tripura’s transport minister, Manik Dey, with Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in Dhaka in 2015. At the time, Dhaka requested India to survey all the missing rail links between the two countries.
Tripura and Assam were once connected to Bangladesh through other rail lines (Belonia-Feni, Karimganj-Chittagong, Mahishasan-Chittagong, Khowai-Akhaura via Balla, and Amarpur to Bhairab Bazaar) but lost connectivity following the partition and wars.
Out of the 12 historic railway links, the one connecting Agartala in Tripura to Akhaura in Bangladesh has successfully completed the process of land acquisition on the Indian side. The Indian and Bangladeshi governments laid the foundation stone for the project on 31 July 2016 to ease surface transport.
This Railway project will see the construction of a 15 km track, (5 km in India), and will cost over ₹ 967.5 crore. It is scheduled to be completed by December 2018. The establishment of the Agartala-Akhaura line, proposed as part of a 2013 agreement between New Delhi and Dhaka, will encourage better trade between the countries by boosting carriage of goods. It is also expected to significantly benefit the states in the North Eastern Region of India. Additionally, the Agartala-Akhaura track may also become a part of the Trans-Asian Railway between Istanbul and Singapore via Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Rajen Gohain, the Junior Railway Minister, said that the government would do everything in its power to strengthen faster communication in the northeastern states through broad gauge connectivity. “We are committed to doing what the region needs for faster communication,” he said.