India has completed the final location survey of three strategically important railway lines in the Northeast, with the aim of helping the Indian Army move its personnel and equipment to the border areas with China, especially in Arunachal Pradesh. Helping to move forward faster.
These strategic railway lines, which will be completed in the next decade, will add to the extensive network of highways already being built.
The scheme, first introduced by the Indian Army in 2010-11, requires an investment of several thousand crore rupees and aims to bring several key border areas, including Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Sikkim, on the broad gauge rail map.
Major rail lines for which work has been expedited are a 200 km broad gauge line between Bhalukpong to Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh), an 87 km line between Silapathar (Assam) to Along Via Bam (Arunachal Pradesh) and Rupai (Assam) ) to Pasighat (Arunachal Pradesh) – which also houses the advanced landing ground of the Indian Air Force – a 217 km line.
All three of these proposed railway lines are classified as ‘strategic’, which means that their cost will be borne by both the Railways and the Ministry of Defence.
Sabyasachi Dey, chief public relations officer of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), told, “The final location survey work on these three lines has been completed, and the report has been submitted to the Railway Ministry.”
The work of final location survey is done to decide the alignment of the railway line and the location of the stations. In the language of railways, the completion of the final location survey means that the project has now taken its final form.
Meanwhile, a senior Railway Ministry official told that “the final location survey report is being considered”.
Once the ministry gives its nod to the final location survey, these projects will be taken to the cabinet for final approval. The official said, ‘Then it will come out of the drawing board.’
Meanwhile, sources in the defence establishment say that these projects have gained momentum only because of the ongoing deadlock with China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). He said that the Indian Army is laying emphasis on this strategic front as it will help in the movement of troops and equipment.
According to him, the Bhalukpong-Tawang line is one of the most important projects, which will meet the extensive needs of the army in the region where tensions with China have escalated.
The proposed line will have several tunnels and will be built at altitudes above 10,000 feet.
Both the highway projects and the strategic railway lines were presented by the Indian Army as part of its internal study on defence preparedness.
A source said, ‘In 2011-12, the army worked to finalize the plan for these rail lines. Then in the year 2012, only on the insistence of the army, the railway line was upgraded up to Bhalukpong and operation was recommended till the point from where the line would start to Tawang.
Defence sources said the Indian Army is working closely with the NFR authorities and a lot of work has been done, which has helped both military personnel and civilians living in the Northeast.
According to the data, between 2014 and 2022, a total of 893.82 km of track was converted to broad gauge, 386.84 km of new rail lines were added, 356.41 km of double lines were commissioned and a survey of 1,578 km of new lines was completed.
According to NFR data, the average fund allocation per year in the northeastern states in the last eight years was Rs 51,787 crore, which is 254 per cent higher than the annual average fund allocation during 2009-14.
More railway lines are being planned
While the final location survey of all three strategic rail link projects has been completed, all are in Arunachal Pradesh, the NFR is planning another strategic rail line – a 26 km long broad gauge track in Murkongselek, Dhemaji, a village in northern Assam. Connects to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh – but is also about to start work.
A senior NFR official said, “Though both Assam and Arunachal Pradesh are currently connected by a rail line, the Murkongselek-Pasighat line is strategic as it will facilitate movement of defense forces inside Arunachal Pradesh.”
“Besides, the NFR is also conducting a ‘feasibility study’ to see whether a broad gauge line can be prepared to connect Kokrajhar in Assam to Gelephu in Bhutan,” a senior NFR official said. can be done?’
Gelephu is located on the Assam-Bhutan border and a proposal to provide rail connectivity between Assam and Bhutan has been under consideration for some time.
Indian Railways is going ahead with its plan to bring Sikkim on the rail map as well.
The senior NFR official quoted earlier had earlier said, “The final location survey is underway to decide the alignment of the rail line and the location of the train station between Rangpo and Sikkim’s capital Gangtok, as well as a survey to verify the same.” preliminary engineering Nearing-cum-traffic survey is also underway whether a strategic broad gauge line can be built between Gangtok and Nathu La.
Connecting all the eight capitals of the Northeast by rail line
It is not only a matter of strategic rail connectivity, but the Ministry of Railways is also working to ensure that all the eight state capitals of the North East are connected by a broad gauge line.
“Though Guwahati (Assam), Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh) and Agartala (Tripura) are already on the rail map, Kohima (Nagaland) will be on broad gauge line by 2026,” Dey said. The work for connecting the rail line between Imphal (Manipur) and Aizawl (Mizoram) is already in an advanced stage. Both the lines will be ready by the year 2023.
Although Meghalaya is connected to the rail network, the NFR has not made much progress on connecting its capital Shillong to a rail line due to protests by Khasi groups in the state demanding an ‘inner line permit’ .