Rail link on right track

India and Bangladesh continue to move ahead in strengthening bilateral relations through closer connectivity between the two countries.


Though passenger bus services between Agartala and Dhaka remained suspended over the past week because of political turmoil in Bangladesh, the steering committee of the two countries met in Dhaka today to discuss an early completion of the 15km Agartala-Akhaura railway link.


The seven-member Indian delegation was led by the joint secretary in ministry of external affairs, Ashok Kumar Sinha. Tripura’s transport commissioner Kishore Ambuly also reached Dhaka as part of the delegation. The Bangladesh side was led by joint secretary in their ministry of planning and development, Sunil Chandra Paul.


Before leaving for Dhaka, Ambuly said the joint steering committee meeting would discuss in detail the Agartala-Akhaura railway track, besides the concomitant task of land acquisition.


“In the accord reached by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, it was decided that the government of India would build at its own expense the 15km stretch of Agartala-Akhaura railway, of which 5km fall within Tripura while the remaining 10km fall in Bangladesh.


An 11-member joint steering committee comprising officials and technocrats of the external affairs ministries and railway boards of the two countries were also formed,” Ambuly said.


He added that the steering committee was originally slated to meet in Agartala tomorrow. But as the Bangladesh delegation would have found it difficult to reach Agartala by road because of the ongoing political unrest, the meeting was shifted to Dhaka.


Ambuly said the traffic chief of the Northeast Frontier Railway, Arindam Das, had inspected the 5km railway alignment within Tripura from Agartala to Nishchindipur where land acquisition work for laying railway tracks would begin after the steering committee meeting.


Similarly, the Bangladesh government will also start land acquisition work after today’s steering committee meeting from Gangasagar station to Akhaura.


“The central government has already sanctioned Rs 253 crore for the project and in the event of cost escalation, more funds will be available,” Ambuly said.


The Bangladesh government is also keen on the project as it will be a direct railway link between Agartala and Calcutta across Bangladesh, he added.