New Delhi: Railway minister Suresh Prabhu on Sunday flagged off Tripura Sundari Express, the first passenger train that will connect Agartala with New Delhi. The train will run once a week with a journey time of 47 hours.
The railways will invest more than Rs.7,000 crore in the current fiscal year to develop its network in the seven north-eastern states, Prabhu said, adding, in 2014-15, only Rs.2,702 crore was spent for this purpose.
Initiatives for better connectivity in the region will result in all-round development in the north-east and gradually, the region will have the highest per capita income in the country, Prabhu said. The minister also announced plans to start an Agartala-Kolkata train service.
“Increase of inter-state connectivity and connectivity between the region and the rest of the country are being given the highest priority. Available connectivity will boost the region’s economy,” Prabhu said.
At a function in Agartala, the minister also laid the foundation stone for a 15km rail link that will connect the capital of Tripura to Akhaura in Bangladesh.
If the facilities of the Chittagong port can be used, then trade and economy of both north-east India and Bangladesh will flourish, he said.
The minister added that India is keen to increase railway connectivity with Bangladesh.
The Agartala-Akhaura link will facilitate trade and people-to-people ties. It is also expected to facilitate transit from Chittagong and Mongla ports in Bangladesh to Tripura and the north-east.
Bangladesh railway minister Mazibul Hoque, who attended the function, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had announced plans to revive all pre-1965 railway connectivity with India.
“We want very close connectivity between our two friends (India and Bangladesh) and closer people-to-people relation,” Hoque said, adding Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar had also agreed to help Bangladesh curb terrorism.
While lauding Bangladesh for cooperation and help in establishing the rail link, Prabhu said more options for connectivity with the country would be explored. Referring to the problem of land acquisition for railway projects, he said the Agartala-Akhaura link is planned as an elevated line to minimize land acquisition.
Prabhu said the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corp. (IRCTC) would be advised to explore the possibility of developing tourist packages including in the north-east and Bangladesh to connect more people to the region.
Acknowledging the current fuel crisis in the state because of its poor road connectivity, the minister said he had instructed officials to take steps to bring more fuel through railways.