Divisional railway manager of Tinsukia Ashish Sharma on Monday said law and order is the main hurdle to open rail links between Tinsukia and Dibrugarh. Tinsukia is one of the five railway divisions under the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR). The others are Rangia, Lumding, Alipurduar and Katihar.
On December 11 and 12, immediately after the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 was passed, protesters allegedly torched Chabua, Panitola and Dikom stations and damaged power houses and tracks at multiple locations.
Chabua is the home town of chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal in Upper Assam’s Dibrugarh district which shares boundary with Tinsukia. Panitola and Dikom stations are also near Chabua.
Most of the railway-level crossing gates between the two district headquarters were vandalised. As a result, entire Upper Assam’s rail connectivity with rest of the country was snapped for several days before operations were partially resumed.
“The Tinsukia-Dibrugarh line is damaged now. Three stations were torched. Only goods trains are running. This will take some time, at least a month or more. The basic bottleneck is law and order. We fear that there will be some repercussions in that belt which is still problematic. Our top priorities are safety and security of train passengers,” Sharma said over phone.
“The track between Tinsukia and Dibrugarh will be opened after commissioning of Panitola, Chabua and Dikom stations for passenger trains. At present, goods trains are running at a very low speed. It is taking more time to cover the distance. The current situation has not only led to damage of infrastructure causing loss of crores of rupees, but also hit revenue generated from sale of tickets very badly,” Sharma added.
All the long-distance trains, including the Rajdhani Express, leaving New Tinsukia railway junction are short terminated or diverted as the rail link between Tinsukia and Dibrugarh remains snapped for passenger traffic.
Sharma said to resume passenger train services, the state government’s assurance that their will be no law-and-order problem is very important. He added that the main thing required to run passenger trains is maintenance.
“The maintenance facilities under Tinsukia railway division is in Dibrugarh. Tinsukia had only limited capacity. We cannot change the originating station which in most cases is Banipur station in Dibrugarh. So, operationally it is not feasible for the railways to run a few trains from Tinsukia and a few from Dibrugarh. At present, railway connectivity between the two important stations remain suspended.”
There are two railway junctions in Tinsukia Town — old railway station and New Tinsukia railway junction where most of the long-distance trains arrive and depart.