Agartala: Tripura entered the broad gauge railway map of the country today with union railway minister Suresh Prabhu inaugurating the Agartala-New Delhi ‘Tripura Sundari Express’.
The foundation stone for the much awaited railway track to link Agartala to Akhoura in Bangladesh was jointly laid at the programme by Prabhu and his Bangladeshi counterpart Mujibul Haque.
‘Tripura Sundari Express’ will run once a week, on Sundays, and reach New Delhi in 47 hours after travelling via Guwahati and New Jalpaiguri. Rs 968 crore was spent for the Agartala-Delhi rail link.
Addressing the gathering, Prabhu said a regular train service between Agartala and Kolkata will start next month. “Kolkata is the cultural capital of the country and Tripura has a long historic connection with it,” he said.
On the Agartala-Akhoura railway link, Prabhu said it would be part of the trans-Asian rail connectivity.
“We are committed to bring connectivity with Bangladesh. The relation between India and Bangladesh is very cordial and they (Bangladesh) are cooperative in our initiative,” he said.
The rail track here would be extended to Sabroom, the southern-most town in Tripura, which is only 75 km from the Chittagong port in Bangladesh.
“Chittagong port is the best port in Asia. We want to connect an Indian railways track with Chittagong port through Sabroom,” Prabhu said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, is very keen to make the northeast region a tourist hub.
“We want to develop railway network in the entire northeast and want to make it a tourist hub. We want to bring Bangladesh into the same tourist circuit,” Prabhu said.
Speaking at the function, Haque said “We always respect the people of India for giving us support and shelter during our Liberation Movement. We want people-to-people contact. Our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked me to convey our love and respect to the people of India”.
Bangladesh has now decided to launch a new train between Khulna and Kolkata in addition to the Maitri Express train that plies between Dhaka and Kolkata.
Minister of state for railways Rajen Gohain said all northeast state capitals will be linked with railways by 2020 and work is already on in Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar and members of his cabinet were present at the programme.
Acquisition of land for the Agartala-Akhoura rail link has already started and Rs 580 crore have been released from the ministry. The laying the 15.054 rail track will be completed by 2017. Of the total track, only five km will be on the Indian side and the rest in Bangladesh.
The agreement between the two countries on the rail link was signed during Hasina’s visit to New Delhi in January 2010.