Work on Hazaribagh’s railway station has been going on since 2005. Telegraph picture
Hazaribagh, Jan. 18: Barely 6km from Hazaribagh, work is on to build the district headquarters’ first railway station. But, it may not have trains to host anytime soon as the eagerly awaited Koderma-Hazaribagh-Ranchi railway link is nowhere near completion, with work chugging along slowly since 2005.
The 200km railway line, one of several projects up for review by the Railway Board tomorrow, is to pass through the three districts, dotted with Maoist hubs, the primary reason behind the project’s delay that has meant an escalation in costs by over Rs 767 crore.
When local MP Yashwant Sinha got then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to lay the foundation stone in 1999, the project was estimated to cost Rs 1,033 crore. The deadline was 2005.
Now, the railway link that was meant to change the face of Hazaribagh is staring at a 2014 completion date, with costs shooting up to around Rs 1,800 crore.
Sinha, once again representing his hometown in the Lok Sabha, has taken it upon himself to ensure the railway line is completed within his tenure. “Mein yahan ke logo ko bharosa dilata hoon ki woh chuk chuk gaadi par 2014 tak yahan se zarur baith kar safar kar sakenge (I want to assure local people that they will surely be able to board trains from here and travel by 2014),” he told The Telegraph.
Railway officials attribute Maoist violence as the main reason behind the delay. While work was progressing without a hitch in Hazaribagh and Koderma sections, it was in Katkamsandi bordering Chatra district where the red brigade has been spreading terror fairly regularly.
In April last year, a manager of Bharadwaj Construction Company, Indiwar Sharma, was shot dead by rebels triggering panic. Badgaon in Simaria often sees Maoist outfits like Jharkhand Prastuti Committee and Tritya Prastuti Committee disrupting work (see box).
A vulnerable point on the route is Tilaiya Dam where a 350-metre-long bridge had to be constructed. Sinha had helped organise special security then.
“During construction we discovered that the surface of the dam area was extremely hard and it took us inordinately long to complete the bridge,” said a senior railway official based in Hazaribagh.
He promised to complete work between Kujju and Barkakana in Ramgarh by March. This time, too, Sinha has promised to help. “Once again, I will try and ensure security at all the troublespots to see that the pace of work is maintained,” he said.
The recent panchayat elections, a month-and-a-half-long exercise, also stalled work as supply of construction material became erratic.
In spite of such regular disruptions, railways claim that 75 per cent of the project work has been completed. For instance, the 132.7km Koderma-Hazaribagh-Barkakana stretch that has 15 bridges would be ready by March, 2012.
“But the Barkakana-Ranchi stretch, which is nearly 67.3km, will be completed only by 2014 as there are three big tunnels for which forest department clearance came to us late,” the official said.
CPRO Vipin Kumar said work on the line was satisfactory. “Recently, we organised a trial run of a goods train on an 18km stretch from Koderma. It worked well,” he told the Telegraph from Hajipur.
For Hazaribagh, the railway line means a lot. To start with, commuters to Calcutta, Patna or Delhi would be saved the trouble of having to reach Koderma station, 62km away, to board trains.
Koderma rail link
COST Rs 1,800 crore
ORIGINAL DEADLINE 2005
ESCALATION (due to delay) Rs 776 crore
• Barkakana-Kujju stretch: Ready by March 2011
• Koderma-Hazaribagh-Barkakana stretch (includes 115 bridges) : Ready by March 2012
• Barkakana-Ranchi stretch (includes three tunnels): Only by 2014
Maoist terror, especially in Katkamsandi (Hazaribagh), bordering Chatra district
• March 13, 2009: Maoists set ablaze equipment in Badgaon, Simaria, in Chatra. Contractors, Calcutta-based Khazana Company, loses around Rs 3 crore
• June 20, 2009: Maoists disrupt work at Karmadaag in Ramgarh, kill labourer Rajendra Prasad
• April 9, 2010: Maoists gun down manager of Bharadwaj Company Indiwar Sharma in Katkamsandi
• May 22, 2010: TPC men set ablaze equipment worth Rs 75 lakh in Nawada Barkitetar of Katkamsandi
"Once train services start from Hazaribagh, it will save us a lot of time"
an owner of a garments shop on Main Road, is waiting for the day when he won’t have to travel to Koderma for a train to Delhi
"It’s convenient… we board around 10pm, and we are in Calcutta by 5am the next day. Why go to Koderma and waste three to four hours for a train?"
a businessman on why he prefers to take a bus, rather than a train, to Calcutta