Sikkim tour dreams ride on rail plan - Hope for pilgrims & trekkers: four stations in hill state

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By BIJOY GURUNG
  • Published 9.12.10
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Gangtok, Dec. 8: An ambitious plan to link tourist destinations in Darjeeling district and Sikkim through train service has been drawn up by the Northeast Frontier Railway.

The 163km-long broad gauge track linking Mirik and Gangtok will pass through the hills and valleys of the eastern Himalayas. The report was submitted to the Sikkim government last month.

Apart from Gangtok, which is a popular destination for visitors from all over the world, the NFR has proposed three more stations in Sikkim. They are Namchi in South Sikkim, Daramdin in West district and Ranipul near the state capital.

Namchi is the headquarters of South Sikkim and boasts the massive statue of Guru Padmasambhava, the patron saint of the state. The government is also working on the Char Dham project in Namchi, where the replicas of four famous Hindu temples are being built.

Tourism stakeholders pointed out that Daramdin was also an important choice for the travellers as it is the gateway to the popular trekking trails of Singalila and Barsey.

Lukendra Rasaily, the president of the Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim, said the rail project was of paramount importance as far as the development of tourism — the primary industry of Sikkim — was concerned.

“This is a very important project from the point of view of tourism. This will develop regional tourism in a big way as tourism in Sikkim and Darjeeling cannot be separated. We will have a bigger reason to promote tourism,” he said.

The project will also boost the pilgrimage tourism of Namchi, said Rasaily. “The pilgrimage tourism potential of Namchi in South Sikkim will be fully complemented by the rail project. The project will develop tourism potential of Daramdin and nearby areas of West Sikkim. Basically, it will be a nice ride across the hills from Mirik to Gangtok through Daramdin and Namchi,” said the TAAS president.

Railway minister Mamata Banerjee announced the project in 2009 and the NFR took up the survey in September the same year.

The survey has estimated that Rs 11,684 crore will be needed to lay tracks in the hills and valleys. The railways have said because of the topography of the area through which the tracks will pass, 26 tunnels will have to be constructed with the longest one being 12.25km. The total length of the tunnels will be 84km, more than half of the route.

The project also envisages the construction of 124 bridges, the largest one spanning 625 metres. According to the report, 58km of the tracks will fall in Bengal and the rest in West, South and East districts of Sikkim.

“Highly sophisticated technology for the design and construction is required for the project and prior to finalisation, there is a need for meticulous investigation and geographical mapping along the proposed alignment,” reads the report.

The state transport department has started reviewing the report. “We are studying the report. The review will be completed by the end of this month and we will send our observation to the NFR headquarters in Malegaon, Assam,” said Uttam Pradhan, the chief engineer of the state transport department.

Work has already begun last year on the 52km rail between Sevoke in Darjeeling district and Rangpo, the gateway to Sikkim.

The foundation stone for this project was laid by Vice-President, M. Hamid Ansari, on October 30, 2009. The project is estimated to cost the railways Rs 1,339 crore.