Work on the ambitious Agartala-Akhaura rail project will be completed early next year (2021), officials here said on Tuesday, quoting Bangladesh Minister for Railways Md. Nurul Islam Sujon.
Mr. Sujan inspected track laying work on the Bangladesh side on Sunday. He was reportedly satisfied with construction activities and expressed the hope to see completion of work by the end of March 2021.
Though originally designed as a 15.6 km-long railway track — 10.6 km in Bangladesh and 5.46 km in India — it was later shortened to 10 km. Six kilometres of the new route falls in Bangladesh and 4 km in the Indian State of Agartala.
The project is aimed to link the British-era Akhaura Junction with Agartala Railway Station to commence train connectivity between the two neighbouring countries.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs is funding the track laying in Bangladesh while the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region has taken on the track laying on the Indian side. Ircon International Limited (formerly Indian Railway Construction Limited) has been assigned construction work on both sides of the border.
The two Indian Ministries are bearing the costs — from construction work to land acquisition to resettlement of people being evicted for the completion of the project. Though Indian Railways officials had earlier hoped to complete the work by September 2021, the Bangladesh Railways Minister set March 2021 as the deadline.
Indian Railways officials said that with the new alignment and design reducing the length of the track, and at the current speed of work, it would possible to accomplish the task by end of March next year.
When it opens, this will be first rail route to run passenger and goods trains from northeast India to Bangladesh.