The railways plan to launch a semi-highspeed Vande Bharat Express between north Bengal and the Northeast next month.
Sources in the Northeast Frontier Railway said here on Thursday that the train would run between New Jalpaiguri and Guwahati. It will be the first Vande Bharat Express in the Northeast and the second in Bengal.
In December last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had flagged off the Vande Bharat Express between New Jalpaiguri and Howrah. The train runs six days a week on the route.
“A team of railway officials and engineers visited the region to check out the infrastructure at stations and the tracks. There are indications that the train will be introduced in April,” said a source.
NJP and Guwahati are around 460km apart. The new train is expected to cover the distance in five hours and is likely to have stops at New Alipurduar, New Cooch Behar and New Bongaigaon.
The sources said after Vande Bharat Express was introduced on the NJP-Howrah route, there was a demand from residents of Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar districts to extend the service to their areas. Some BJP legislators also lent support to the demand.
“However, the railway authorities made it clear that like Shatabdi Express, Vande Bharat Expresses run on routes where the return journey can be completed on the same day. Hence, it is not possible to extend the route beyond NJP. This seems to be another reason for the new train’s launch,” said a source.
A trader in Alipurduar pointed out that if the timings of both the trains — the one that runs on the NJP-Howrah route and the proposed one — were synced, people in the district and Assam could reach Calcutta on the same day and vice-versa. “We have to visit Assam regularly for business purposes. A new train which can take us to Guwahati in three or four hours can largely help us,” he said.