On agenda, rail line in Bangla to bring Kolkata, Agartala closer
With the long-term objective of securing rail transit rights through Bangladesh to connect Kolkata with Tripura capital Agartala, bypassing the treacherous route through the 'chicken's neck', India is all set to push for the construction of a 14-km railway line between the two countries during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's three-day visit to India that begins Monday.
The chicken's neck or Siliguri Corridor is a narrow stretch of land, which connects India's north-eastern states to the rest of country.
Sources said the Indian government is ready to construct the line as part of an aid to Bangladesh.
The Railways Ministry is learnt to have prepared a detailed proposal for this link and RailwayMinister Mamata Banerjee will personally take up the matter with Hasina, sources said.
India essentially wants to lay a new rail line from Akhaura in Bangladesh to Agartala to have a much shorter access route to Tripura via Bangladesh.
At present, the sole rail connectivity between Kolkata and Agartala is through the Siliguri Corridor. India at present has rail access till Dhaka.
While the rail line till Dhaka is a broad gauge line, the line from Dhaka to Akhaura is meter gauge. Constructing a meter gauge line from Akhaura to Agartala would provide direct Kolkata-Agartala connectivity to India. Transshipment, however, would be required at Dhaka because of gauge change.
At over 1,600 km, the current route is not only very long but also under continuous disruptions owing to either geological factors or terrorist activities. As a result, taking even the essential supplies to Tripura has often proved to be a major problem for the Indian authorities. If both sides agree to construct the 14 km of rail line connecting Akhaura with Agartala and if India can get transit rights through Bangladesh, the distance between Kolkata and Agartala could come down to around 550 km, officials said.
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