Agartala, Sept. 08 (IANS):
Agartala, Sept. 08 (IANS):Indian and Bangladesh railway officials on Wednesday completed technical formalities and finalised alignments to link their networks to improve connectivity between the two countries.
Senior officials of Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR), Bangladesh Railways and the Tripura government held a series of meetings here this week and visited several places proposed to be utilised for laying the railway tracks.
"The final technical and alignment reports would now be submitted to both the governments for taking final decision before starting the actual works," Y. Ali Mirdha, Bangladesh Railway’s chief engineer, told reporters.
The Bangladesh officials signed a document with their Indian counterparts here in the presence of officials of the Indian high Commission in Dhaka.
"A team of officials of IRCON (Indian Railway Construction Company) have recently visited Dhaka and held talks with Bangladesh government and railway ministry officials to finalise alignment of the 13-km Agartala-Akhaurah connecting rail line," said Mirdha.
India has been keen to establish the Agartala-Akhaura rail link as it would facilitate easier connectivity between West Bengal and northeastern states through Bangladesh. It has offered to construct the railway link.
India also wants to extend its railway network to two more places along the India-Bangladesh border to improve connectivity between the two countries, a NFR official said.
The two places are Sabroom in southern Tripura, 135 km from Agartala, and Akhaurah in western Tripura, six km from the Agartala railway station, which appeared on the country’s rail map in 2008.
Bangladesh operates regular train services on its side up to Akhaurah and various other places, just opposite several sub-divisional towns in Tripura.
Of the 13-km proposed link railway line to connect with the Bangladesh railway network through Akhaurah railway station, 5.4 km falls in Indian territory and the remaining portion in Bangladesh.
"After approval of the alignment by the governments of the two countries, the railway ministry would sanction the project," said Vipin Jha, NFR’s additional general manager.
"The two countries had already agreed to connect Agartala-Akhaurah by railway line, for which a survey had been completed in 1999," Jha added.
The construction of the proposed Akhaurah-Agartala railway link, to be financed by India, was agreed during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s India visit in January this year.
After 43 years, India and Bangladesh resumed regular train services in April 2008 through Gede in West Bengal’s Nadia district and Darshana in Bangladesh. The service was suspended after the 1965 war between India and Pakistan when Bangladesh was then Pakistan’s eastern part.
The rail service between Kolkata and Dhaka covers a distance of 406 km, while the distance between Agartala and Dhaka is 150-km.
NFR officials said the ongoing works of railway connection up to southern Tripura’s bordering town Sabroom would be completed by March 2014. The proposed railway station would be just 75 km away from the Chittagong international port in southeast Bangladesh.
They said the broad gauge line would reach south Tripura’s district headquarters Udaipur by December 2012.
The officials said 58 percent of the conversion work from metre gauge to broad gauge from Assam’s Lumding to northern Tripura’s Kumarghat have been completed. Over Rs.2,000 crore has already been spent for the purpose