The first broad gauge train – a goods train though – entered Mizoram on Monday, exactly 16 years after the gauge conversion project covering 84.25 kms was sanctioned. It also put Mizoram in India’s railway map, and became the first step towards taking the railway line farther south so that the capital of Mizoram, Aizawl, finally finds a place in India’s railway map three years later.
Monday’s train – a commercial freight train comprising 42 wagons laden with food-grain (rice) – left Katakhal station in Assam’s Hailakandi district in the morning and arrived in Bairabi, where it was ceremonially received by John Rotluangliana, Mizoram minister for transport, food & civil supply and tourism along with other top officials of the state government and railways.
Sanctioned way back in 2000 for gauge conversion, the 84.25-km project was completed “well within target”, Pranav Jyoti Sharma, CPRO at the Northeast Frontier Railway headquarters said. “The present success was attributable to the hard work and dedication of Railway engineers whose effort saw completion of the work well within target,” he said.
For Mizoram, it was a day to rejoice because the railway train has made transportation of essential foodgrains easier, cheaper and safer. Mizoram requires about 40,000 tons of rice per month, which is transported from other states of India by railway as well as road.
The Katakhal-Bairabi gauge conversion is part of the Lumding-Silchar project that became operational a few months ago, however travels only two kms inside Mizoram territory. “With Monday’s BG train to Bairabi, Mizoram becomes the third Northeastern state after Tripura and Manipur to have got BG connectivity during this financial year,” CPRO Sharma added. Passenge trains will start plying immediately after the safety inspection got over, he informed.
The proposed 51-km track to Sairang, which will be the railhead for capital city Aizawl, would be completed by March 2019, the railway CPRO informed. Imphal, Kohima and Shillong are the other three state capitals in the region which have yet to find place in India’s railway map.
The 84.25-km Katakhal-Bairabi line, built at a cost of Rs 326.51 crore, has nine stations in between, these being Algapur, Hailakandi, Monacherra, Lalabazar, Mahamadpur, Katlicherra, Manipur Bagan, Jamira and Ramnathpur, all of which are inside Assam.