Railways to show green signal to a train in Andaman and Nicobar

240-km track from Port Blair to Diglipur will benefit tourists, defence forces.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi | Updated: February 6, 2017 11:05 am
Andaman and Nicobar, Andaman Nicobar, Andaman Nicobar train, Andaman to Nicobar, train route, pot blair, port blair diglipur, indian express news, india news You can soon take a train to get here. Express file photo

A 240-KM broad-gauge railway line connecting two major islands, with bridges and stations along the coast, will be part of an ambitious rail link connecting Port Blair with Diglipur on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands — a first in the country that will bring the archipelago on the rail map.

The Railway Ministry is set to approve the project, which will connect the Union Territory’s capital city in the south with the largest town on the north Andaman island currently linked by a 350-km bus service that takes over 14 hours and a ship that takes around 24 hours. There is no air connectivity.

According to an internal survey report of the ministry, the cost of the line will be Rs 2,413.68 crore with a negative rate of return on investment of -9.64 per cent. The Railways considers a line to be commercially viable if this figure is at least a positive of 12 per cent. But the ministry is set to approve this project owing to its “uniqueness and strategic importance”, according to documents reviewed by The Indian Express.

The ministry’s Planning and Finance directorates cleared the project last week saying it is desirable because “it is unique, away from the mainland, and has tourism potential.”

andamaan

Giving a fillip to the rail link, the Union Territory administration has agreed to share 50 per cent of the project’s operational cost — or loss.

“As soon as the line is commissioned, tourism will see a jump from the current 4.5 lakh visitors a year to around 6 lakh a year, as per our estimates. So even though the railway survey shows a negative return, our assessment is otherwise. However, we have agreed to share the operational losses, if any,” Jagdish Mukhi, Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, told The Indian Express.

According to the UT administration, the line has tourism potential and is of “immense strategic value” to the defence forces because Diglipur is just 300 km by sea from the southern coast of Myanmar — a broad-gauge train line from Port Blair to Diglipur will take three hours at the most.

The Railways’ Planning wing has suggested that the project may be taken up as part of the strategic lines it will build for Defence ministry, such as those in the border regions of the Northeast. The Finance arm has said that it may be taken up as a national project, like the Kashmir link, in which the general exchequer is billed. The Railway Board will take a final view on this issue soon.

The initial survey for the proposed line was completed in December 2014 but the plan was dropped. Last year, the project received a fresh push when the Railways updated the survey and the UT administration said it would chip in.

Among the major tourist attractions in Diglipur are the Ross and Smith islands. “These are just two of the main attractions. Lakhs of tourists take great pains to reach there from Port Blair every year. With the railway line in place, that part essentially become a part of the capital, beneficial to tourists, local residents and the defence forces,” said Mukhi.

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  1. Y
    Yuvaraj p
    Feb 6, 2017 at 6:44 pm
    Good spot for tourism
    Reply
    1. H
      Hrishikesh Kumar
      Feb 6, 2017 at 10:19 am
      Great
      Reply
      1. A
        Ajitabh
        Feb 6, 2017 at 12:56 am
        There is Saddle Peak as well,Highest Peak of Andamans.Such a tranquil and pure ambience Diglipur possess.
        Reply
        1. A
          Anirban Choudhury
          Feb 6, 2017 at 8:11 am
          NEWS ITEM MENTIONED / STATED ABOVE SAYS THAT "A 240-KM broad-gauge railway line, joining Port Blair with Diglipur, has a Budgetory Estimate of Rs 2,413.68 Cr @ todays cost".lt;br/gt;​Being a infrastructure project ​development professional, I feel we need to ask ANDAMAN and NICOBAR ADMINISTRATION and concerned RAILWAY ORGANIZATION ( railway Board/ Rites e.t.c)-lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;QUESTIONNAIRE 1lt;br/gt;​# What is the basis of the cost umptions vis-a-vis risks umed by them? lt;br/gt;​# What all does it include? lt;br/gt;​# What are the risks umed, mitigation measures and approximate cost escalation umed?lt;br/gt;​# Project time line vis-a-vis risks umed by them? lt;br/gt;​# What is the probable time escalation?lt;br/gt;​# What is the project pre take-off expenses ? Is it of the Range of Rs 130 Cr to Rs 230 Cr?lt;br/gt;​# Where are the copy of the technical due diligence report that is the basis of the above information and should have been in Public Domain post public hearing?lt;br/gt;​# Where are the copy of Phase 1 Environmental Due diligence report - Phase 1 [ site essment complying ASTM E1527 - 13 ; based on site reconnaissance and secondary information's]; Phase 2 [ASTM E1903 - 11 ], should have been in Public Domain post public hearing?lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;QUESTIONNAIRE 2 - Traffic and Transport Study justifying the need of a railway systemlt;br/gt;​# What is the tentative levelised tariff without escalation that a Andaman and Nicobar island administration will bear in terms of Rs/Penger Mile.?lt;br/gt;​# Is it a BOOT Contract? If yes what is the period of concession ?lt;br/gt;​# What is the annual Levelised cost that the BOOT contractor needs to recover and resultant levelised penger fare in Rs / Pax Mile?lt;br/gt;​# What is the minimum Viability Gap funding (VGF) the A and N Administration has to provide to make the Levelised toll rate Rs / Pax Mile affordable at today's cost to the consumer?lt;br/gt;​# Tentative project scheme​ (schematic)​ that precedes DPR, needed for approval of Draft Tender to hire a consultant for DPR preparation.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;CONCLUSION lt;br/gt;​# Neither the Andaman and Nicobar Administration nor the concerned railway organizations ( railway Board/ Rites e.t.c) of our country has the answers to the above QUESTIONNAIRE 1 and 2, otherwise the same would have been available in public domain.lt;br/gt;​# Need for Citizens to take part in decisions that is going to affect theirs and future generations quality of life.lt;br/gt;# The Rail project costing Rs 2,413.68 Cr @ todays cost is more prone to design, development and operational risks compared to financially viable bouquet (to diversify risks ) of projects having higher economic multiplier at same cost. WE THE RESIDENTS OF ANDAMAN and NICOBAR ISLANDS NEED TO PROPOSE THIS BOUQUET OF PROJECTS.
          Reply
          1. A
            Angelica Ibbotson
            Feb 6, 2017 at 1:37 pm
            No, the Sentinelese are neither cannibals or "backward", they are just as 'modern' as everyone else. They just chose to live a way of life that is different to the mainstream, this is an active choice. They make it clear that they don't want contact with outsiders, and this must be respected. The railway is not going anywhere near the Sentinelese's island, but may well go through the land of the Jarawa tribe, which would be a huge intrusion and invasion. No developments should take place on their land without their free, prior and informed consent.
            Reply
            1. A
              Ashim Kumar Chatterjee
              Feb 6, 2017 at 8:29 am
              after bullet train this is another catchy announcement to play to gallery.
              Reply
              1. D
                Dr.Ashok Pal
                Feb 6, 2017 at 3:05 am
                Survey for the proposed railways has been done many times , environmental clearance and the path of the rail line should not hamper the tribe's of the area . If it is done then the tourist attractions will be more . Hope all goes well a long waiting demand of the remote island territory of India. Hats off to the LG of Aand N Islands.
                Reply
                1. E
                  Environment First
                  Feb 6, 2017 at 2:41 pm
                  In India we need highly efficient public transport system to combat the pollution. Every one wants car, where is the space for parking, driving and if you compare pollution level with other big cities (except china), it is more than 20 times higher.
                  Reply
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