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North train grouse

Siliguri, Feb. 12: People of north Bengal have expressed disappointment with the railway budget as only five new trains have been announced for the region.

Moreover, of the five trains, only three originate from north Bengal, while the rest pass through the region. Four trains would run once a week and one would be biweekly.

Samar Dutta, a Siliguri-based businessman, said the people of the town and the surrounding areas would benefit only by the Ranchi-NJP weekly express.

“The Malda Town-Anand Vihar Express (weekly) and the Balurghat-Howrah Express ((biweekly) would not benefit us. Also, only half of north Bengal will be covered by the Kamakhya-New Delhi AC Express (weekly). Other than the Balurghat-Howrah Express, all other trains are weekly,” said Dutta. Another train, Kamakhya-Chennai Express (weekly), has also been announced in the budget.

According to residents of Siliguri, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar, it would have been better if the railway minister had announced some more local and inter-city trains and if the the track between NJP and New Alipurduar had been doubled.

“Considering the steep rise in the number of passengers from Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and North Dinajpur to Siliguri, more inter-city trains are needed. We lack infrastructure as the Siliguri Junction-Alipurduar route and the NJP-New Alipurduar route via Cooch Behar are single lines. Most trains run on single track along the NJP-New Alipurduar section, which is the principal route. It is disappointing that the minister did not announce any plan to double the track,” said Dipen Chhetri, a Siliguri based school teacher.

He also said the minister didn’t mention the axle factory announced for NJP in 2009 when Mamata Banerjee was in charge of the railways.

Environmentalists said doubling of tracks along the principal NJP-New Alipurduar route would have averted collision between trains and wild animals. “Once the principal track is double-lined, traffic on the Siliguri Junction-Alipurduar route will come down. This route has witnessed a number of elephants being run over by trains. The railway minister seems to have forgotten the problem and didn’t allocate funds for doubling the stretch between Ambari (near NJP) and New Alipurduar,” said Animesh Bose, the programme coordinator of Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation.

Residents of Balurghat and Malda are, however, happy with the budget. Malda will be covered by three trains, except the Kamakhya-New Delhi and NJP-Ranchi expresses.

“We understand that the interim budget has been presented with focus on the Parliament polls and Malda being a Congress bastion, we have got one train to Delhi. We would benefit from two other trains as well. Still, we demand a direct train to south India from Malda and a super fast train to Calcutta. Nonetheless, to an extent, we are satisfied with the budget,” said Ujjal Saha, the secretary of the Malda Merchant Chamber of Commerce.

In Balurghat, the people sounded excited about the budget.

“So far, we had only one train to Calcutta. Now a new train has been introduced to Howrah. Further, people of South Dinajpur need to visit southern parts of India for different errands. We can now take connecting trains directly from Howrah,” said Biplab Das, a government employee in Balurghat.