|Construction going on at Boila bridge. File picture
Agartala, July 12: Tripura’s tenuous railway link between Agartala-Silchar and Lumding will come to a standstill from October 1 when the Northeast Frontier Railway will start gauge conversion work between Lumding-Badarpur and Silchar to upgrade the metre-gauge link to broad-gauge.
The Tripura government had demanded simultaneous beginning of the gauge conversion work between Badarpur and Agartala but NF Railway and the railway ministry in Delhi have not yet made their stand clear on the issue.
After the presentation of the railway budget in Parliament, two MPs from Tripura, Jiten Chowdhury and Sankar Prasad Dutta, met railway minister Sadananda Gowda and pressed for inclusion of the Badarpur-Agartala gauge upgradation work, demanding specific budgetary allocation. But the railway minister did not make any firm commitment, promising only to “look into the matter”.
The NF Railway authorities, in an official letter to chief minister Manik Sarkar, has informed him of their inability to start simultaneous gauge upgradation work between Badarpur and Silchar along the Lumding-Badarpur-Silchar track.
Expressing grave concern over the issue, transport minister Manik Dey said stoppage of railway service because of the gauge conversion work from October 1 would create serious problems in transportation to and from Tripura.
“We had consistently demanded improvement of national highway 44 before beginning of the railway gauge upgradation work and simultaneous gauge upgradation between Badarpur and Silchar. But the NF Railway authority and even the railway ministry in Delhi have not responded positively,” said Dey.
He pointed out that National Highway 44 is in a “pathetic condition”, especially on a 20km stretch between Tripura’s border with Assam at Churaibari and Loarpua in Karimganj district in Barak valley of Assam.
“This 20km stretch often becomes almost unusable during the monsoon. Things will improve by the beginning of October but the pressure of traffic on the highway is so heavy now that without comprehensive repairing and upgradation, it will not be able to bear the load of vehicles,” Dey said.
He expressed the fear that disruption of railway link will put heavier pressure on the national highway and road transport will become very difficult. “The trouble is that Tripura, in the absence of railway service for the time being, will be totally dependent on the national highway which needs immediate repairs and upgradation but the BRTF has not yet taken any initiative,” Dey said.
Chief secretary S.K. Panda wrote to the cabinet secretary on June 28 apprising him of the critical problems emerging from the disruption in the railway link. But no initiative has been taken to address the state’s problems.
“I had addressed a letter on July 10 to Union railway minister Sadananda Gowda and apprised him of our problems. We are hoping that the railway minister will take an initiative in this regard,” said transport minister Manik Dey.
He described as “unfortunate” the non-inclusion of Tripura in any of the projects announced by the Centre in the railway or the general budgets.