Siliguri, Feb. 26: North Bengal today got two new trains in Pawan Bansal’s railway budget and would also benefit from five other trains that would cross the region.
Siliguri got a weekly express train to Howrah (see chart), apart from the Shatabdi Express that runs six days a week.
The railway minister also announced double-line plans for four stretches on the NJP-Jalpaiguri-Falakata route, which when completed would take away some of the traffic pressure from the Dooars’s single line, on which elephant are often run over by speeding trains at night.
Trinamul leaders criticised the budget, saying junior Union ministers Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury and Deepa Das Munshi had got trains for their constituencies.
“The Radhikarpur-Anand Vihar Link Express, which would run daily, is a move to appease Raiganj MP Deepa Das Munshi. The extension of the New Delhi-New Farakka Express to Malda is a similar move to keep Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury in good humour,” said Biplab Khan, a Trinamul leader from Balurghat. “It is disappointing to note that nothing has been mentioned on South Dinajpur district in the budget.”
Yesterday, Abu Hasem had submitted a set of proposals to Bansal in Delhi and had sought extension of the New Delhi-New Farakka Express. His demands for a link train to the Delhi-bound Rajdhani from Malda and a south India-bound train from the town were not met.
“We will have an AC express to Howrah once a week. It would be good if the train runs on Sundays as on all other days we have the Shatabdi. The north Bengal region would be benefited from at least five other trains announced from northeast and Bihar,” Tanmoy Dutta, a bank employee, said.
Environmentalists today said they were glad with Bansal’s announcement to carry out double-line work at four stretches connecting NJP with Assam through Jalpaiguri, Mainaguri, Dhupguri, Falakata, Cooch Behar and Alipurduar.
“We have been demanding double-lining of the main track which passes through non-forest areas. It is because of the single track that trains are run through Dooars forests which causes the deaths of so many elephants,” Sujit Raha, president of Siliguri-based Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation, said.
Bansal mentioned the issue in his speech. “The railway family is deeply grieved by some incidents of death of elephants on railway tracks passing through forest areas. Several measures have been initiated in consultation with the ministry of environment & forests, which I am confident will substantially reduce such accidents and safeguard the lives of these gentle giants.”
Bansal didn’t mention projects which were announced by Mamata Banerjee during her tenure — the axle factory at NJP, the wagon factory at Buniadpur in South Dinajpur and the rail route to Sikkim from Sevoke. He did not lay down any specific plan for the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, only mentioning that mountain railways are a piece of heritage and the railways would work to preserve them.