Thursday, January 20, 2011

Northeast Frontier Railway

The above pic is a recent railway map of Assam. From a recent news report:

At present, there is a network of only 2,447-km rail line in the entire north-eastern region, which accounts for 4 per cent of the national network. Of the total railway network, about 97 per cent is in Assam and 2 per cent in Tripura. Therefore, a very accelerated programme of rail connectivity is required to provide the basic infrastructure capacity for the NE to realize its economic potential. At present, there is a plan to connect Itanagar and Agartala during the 11th Plan whereas Aizawl, Imphal and Kohima would be connected during the 12th Plan, the sources said, and added that Shillong and Gangtok were expected to be connected in the 13th Plan. According to the sources, India is going to construct the Agartala-Akhaura (Bangladesh) line to connect Tripura to the Bangladesh railway network. It has been decided that the projects of the Railways designated as national projects will be supported by the Government of India in the ratio of 75-25. It has also been decided to create a fund for development of rail infrastructure in the north-eastern region.

So here is a Know Your Northeast Frontier Railway Primer.

1) Headquarters: Maligaon in Guwahati,
2) Established: The railway zones of the Indian Railways were reorganized in the year 1953. During this time, Avadh - Tirhut Railway and Assam Railway were coalesced to create North Eastern Railway. Later in 1958 (Jan 15), Northeast Frontier Railway was created out of the North Eastern Railway.
3) Divisional headquarters: Alipurduar, Katihar, Lumding, Rangiya and Tinsukia
4) Issues: Pre-partition Indian Railways had linked the North-East and the present-day Bangladesh as an organic whole. Partition resulted in complete severance of this logical link. The truncated network of the North-East stood woefully incomplete and unconnected. See more of the Pre-partition history at Linky 1 and Linky 2.

The Indian Railways addressed this problem immediately and in right earnest. The Assam Rail Link project was completed in 1950 providing a meter gauge (MG) rail link to Assam. But the journey involved transhipment and ferry crossing both for passengers and for freight. The broad gauge (BG) link was extended in phases to Guwahati between 1965 and 1985. Two massive bridges on the mighty Branhmaputra at Kamakhya and Jogighopa and later extension of a BG link up to Dibrugarh and Lekhapani finally made it possible to travel to the North-East.

5) Past achievements:
a) Track linking project in Agartala-Jogendranagar-Jirania-Brigudaspara
b) Katihar-Jogbani GC Project
c) Senchoa-Silghat GC project
d) Siliguri Diesel Shed
e) Sick line shed and freight examination facilities at New Bongaigaon

6) Freight traffic composition (from Linky):
Three broad categories — coal, petroleum products and other cargoes — each having almost equal share
In 2008-09 and 2007-08 (in million tons):
a) Coal - 4mt 4.8mt
b) Petroleum - 3.5mt 3.8mt
c) Foodgrains - 0.876mt
d) Bamboo - 0.503mt
e) Dolomites - 0.306mt
f) Cement - 0.176mt
g) Fertilizers - 0.133mt

7) Heritage projects:
a) 120km long Mahur–Harangajao hill section in North Cachar Hill district (now called Dima Hasao district) of Assam
b) 10km long Siliguri—Bagdogra section in West Bengal
c) Heritage park called the Rail Heritage Park-cum-Museum at New Tinsukia station in eastern Assam at the confluence of two historic railway systems — Dibru Sadiya Railway (DSR) and Assam Bengal Railway (ABR), which were linked at Tinsukia on March 1, 2003. The museum showcases DSR and ABR along with a gallery on the unique Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR). The DHR is the famous 610 mm-wide narrow gauge railway that snakes up the Himalayas from Siliguri to Darjeeling for 88 km and is a World Heritage Site, as recognised by UNESCO since November 2, 1999. The still-operational DHR was made operational in 1881 across one of the most scenic mountainous terrains of the world by virtue of ingenuous engineering solutions.
d) Century-old Cooch Behar railway station in West Bengal is a heritage structure

8) Ongoing major projects (from Linky):
In Assam:
a) Gauge conversion Lumding-Silchar (201.03km), Arunachal-Jiribam (50.39km), Badarpur-Kumarghat (117.82km) segments, Hill section of 151km and Plain section of 217km, sanctioned in 1996-97, declared National Project in 2004 (meaning 75% funding will be met by the Ministry of Finance, GoI and remaining 25% by Ministry of Railways), Hill section is confronted with the constraints of short working season (November-April), militancy (NC Hills area has been under the spell of DHD and KLNLF), difficult terrain, limited contractors, non-availability of raw material and skilled labour, bad condition of roads and bridges resulting into frequent interruptions in man and material movement and land acquisition resulting into interruptions by several departments and interest groups
b) Rail cum road Bridge over river Brahmaputra at Bogibeel with linking lines on North and South Bank - 74km, National Project, sanctioned in 1997-98, expected to be completed by 2014 (around 90% of work done in earthwork, minor as well as major bridges, no tunnels needed), need to complete Dibrugarh Guide-I in one working season otherwise it will be washed away in the monsoon season, project delayed due to extortion attempts and security threats by militants and meagre allotment of funds through 2005-06
c) Completion of 142km Jogighopa-Guwahati and the Bridge at Jogighopa

In Tripura:
a) New broad gauge line Agartala-Sabroom (110km), Sabroom is 75km from Chittagong International Airport in Bangladesh, a small bridge over river Feni can connect Sabroom and Khagrachari (in BD) -- the second such link after the Kolkota-Dhaka rail line, sanctioned in 2008, delay by State Government to hand over land and resistance by villagers
b) New line connecting Agartala with Akhaurah (in BD) - 5km
c) Kumarghat-Agartala meter gauge line project - 109km, foundation stone laid in 1996, project complete and line commissioned by October 2008, three big tunnels through the Longtharai Valley, Baramura and Atharamura Hills in Dhalai and West Tripura districts, 1,962-metre Longtharai tunnel is the longest railway tunnel in eastern India

In Manipur:
a) Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal - 84km in place of the Diphu-Karong project (123 km) connecting Brahmaputra valley with Manipur valley which was frozen for strategic reasons, National Project, sanctioned in 2003-04, Jiribam-Tupul expected to be completed in 2014 and Tupul-Imphal in 2016, survey took five years to complete due to insurgency, frequent bandhs, hilly terrain, economic blockades in NH39 and NH53, poor/non-existent feeder roads to reach interior project sites, weak bridges and poor road conditions to transport heavy machinery and material not possible from Silchar side, and NH39 not available due to blockades.

In Arunachal-Upper Assam:
a) New broad gauge line from Harmuti-Naharlagun-Itanagar - 22km, project sanctioned in 1996-97, detailed estimate sanctioned in January 2008 for the Harmuti-Naharlagun segment, the other segment's estimate sent to the Railway Board, approx 10% of work on major bridges done, no tunnels required, delay in land acquisition by Government of Assam, dispute of ownership of land at State boundary between Arunachal and Assam

In Sikkim-North Bengal:
a) New broad gauge line from Siliguri-Sevok-Rangpo-Ranipool near Gangtok, 52.70km, National Project, sanctioned in 2008-09, expected to be completed in 2016, detailed estimate under process with the Railway Board
b) Gauge conversion New Jalpaiguri-Siliguri-New Bongaigaon (417km)

9) Other major/minor projects in the works:
a) New line from Dimapur to Kohima (Zubza)
b) New BG line from Bhairabi to Sairang
c) New BG line from New Maynaguri to Jogighopa - 265.7km
d) New BG line from Azara to Byrnihat
e) New BG line from Eklakhi to Balurghat (113km) and Gazole to Itahar
f) Dudhnoi to Depa (Mendipathar) - 18km
g) New BG line from Araria to Galgalia (Thakurganj)
h) New BG line from Kishanganj to Jalalgarh
i) Gauge conversion Katihar-Jogabani (200km)
j) Gauge conversion Lumding-Dibrugarh including branch lines (628km)
k) Gauge conversion Katakhat-Bhairabi (84km)

In short:
1) Tripura's trade future seems to lie in close-knit cross-border ties with Bangladesh. This writing on the wall + rapproachment from the Bangladeshi side means that the Manik Sarkar government has not been found wanting in moving towards a status quo ante in terms of trade with Bangladesh.
2) Assam as usual is the connector for Arunachal and Nagaland (Upper Assam) and Meghalaya (Lower Assam). Some speedy movement in Arunachal is perhaps mooted by the Chinese claim, while the various insurgencies in Nagaland and Meghalaya means that they stand to see the gains of connectivity last. Darwin's award for self de-selection deserves no better exhibit than the case of Nagaland.
3) Sikkim's future is tied to the Dooars-Siliguri corridor (Darjeeling/North Bengal). This may provide a stepping stone to pull East Nepal and Bhutan into a tight trade-based embrace with a cross-border rail and HV transmission network. The day is not far off when hydroelectric power is traded for perishable and non-perishable commodities.
4) Vested by the disadvantage of geography, Mizoram might see connectivity towards the fag end of the process. Cross-border ties with Mizo tribes in Burma is the way to go. The process bulldozed by the Manik Sarkar government may catalyze such a revolutionary thinking sometime soon. While Moreh-Tamu is a significant boost in this direction, the viability of Mizoram-Burma trade is still light years away.
5) An alternate to the NSCN(IM)/Nagalim pressure point vis-a-vis Manipur is being envisaged, but given the state of affairs with respect to project completion in India (in general) and the Northeast (in particular), NSCN (both the factions) will remain a pressure point for a long time to come. Diversifying trade with Burma and developing the British era highway system to Assam (North Cachar Hills) is the way to go for Manipur.

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At August 25, 2013 at 11:51 AM , Blogger Sumant Rawat said...

Thanks for the info.Can you please attach a map of the railway stations and the connecting routes.Great job!


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