The people of Tripura, a state that is bound by Bangladesh on three sides, has a new reason to rejoice: Agartala, capital of the landlocked state tucked far away in the southern corner of the Northeastern region will have a Rajdhani Express to the national capital from Saturday.
“It is indeed an occasion to rejoice. While our state did not have any railway link with the rest of the country till a metre gauge line was opened in 2008, it will now have a Rajdhani Express. It will immensely benefit our people who have so long spent thousands of rupees to fly to Delhi for various purposes in the absence of a BG link and a superfast train,” Manik Dey, transport minister in the Left Front government, told The Indian Express from Agartala.
But Dey said the Left Front government is not entirely happy. “A Rajdhani Express only once a week is not enough. How many people will be able to travel? Though we welcome it, our government demands that it should be at least thrice a week,” the minister said.
While the inaugural Rajdhani Express will leave Agartala at 1 pm on Saturday, it will depart regularly every Monday from Agartala at 6:30 PM, Pranav Jyoti Sharma, chief public relations officer with the Northeast Frontier Railway in Guwahati said. The Rajdhani Express will have 14 coaches that includes one first class, two AC-2 Tier and eight AC-3 Tier coaches apart from two power-cum-luggage vans and one hot buffet car, Sharma informed.
The new Rajdhani Express will cover a distance of 2,413 km between Agartala and Anand Vihar station (in Delhi) in 36 hours, and have 15 stops in between, including Badarpur, Haflong, Guwahati, Kamakhya, New Jalpaiguri, Katihar, Barauni, Mughalsarai and Kanpur, CPRO Sharma said.
Dilip Kumar Rana, who teaches development economics in the Tripura University in Agartala said introduction of a Rajdhani Express would immensely benefit the landlocked state. “Students and patients will be the most benefitted segments. Right now traveling to Delhi means catching a flight through Kolkata, which is both expensive and time-consuming. The Rajdhani will trigger of development too, because Tripura will now also get tourists,” Rana said.
“The Rajdhani Express is a big event for the whole state. It will not just be a connectivity to travel to the national capital, but will also be a connectivity to mainland India. It was long-standing demand of the people here,” said Subhash Das, a retired bureaucrat who had handled tourism, art and culture in the Tripura government.
The local media in Agartala too are upbeat. Dainik Sambad, the oldest and highest-selling daily from the Tripura capital not only gave a detailed time-table of the train, but also the list of items on the menu. “Passengers traveling to Delhi will get one lunch and two dinners, apart from two breakfasts. While the non-veg meal will have chicken, vegetarians will get paneer. Most importantly, they will also serve soup before meals, and of course tea and coffee. And, all this at no extra payment,” the newspaper wrote on Friday.
Agartala, till 1947, had direct railway link to Kolkata through Dhaka. But with Partition, that link was severed. While a metre gauge line was extended from Karimganj in Assam to Dhamanagar, about 40 km inside Tripura, in the late 1980s, Agartala had got a metre gauge link to the rest of India in 2008. “Agartala got a metre gauge link four decades after man had landed on moon,” Tripura chief minister Maink Sarkar had said when the metre gauge link was inaugurated in April 2008.
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