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Akhaura-Agartala railway: A milestone of India-Bangladesh railway connectivity

By Samara Ashrat* 

The Akhaura-Agartala rail line will be going to be inaugurated soon. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to inaugurate this rail line along with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September. This project is creating considerable excitement among the people of both of the countries. This connectivity initiative is expected to be a game changer for both India and Bangladesh.
Goods can be transported from other sea ports of India to other states of the North-Eastern region via Agartala from Chittagong and Mongla ports of Bangladesh. As a result, trade in these states will increase as well as it will be possible to transport goods quickly and easily along with reducing the cost of goods transportation.

The project

The Agartala-Akhaura international railway connectivity project is one of India and Bangladesh's most prominent connectivity projects. Akhaura used to be the railway link for Agartala before Independence. Akhaura-Agartala railway line is finally seeing the light. The project is being implemented with an Indian loan. The project officials said that the work of Akhaura-Agartala project has been completed more than 90 percent. The work of laying the railway line is complete.
The railway line, which is 15.064 km long — 5.05 km in India and 10.014 km in Bangladesh — will link Bangladesh's Akhaura, through an international immigration station at Nischintapur, to the outskirts of Agartala. This station will be a dual gauge station for both passenger and goods interchange between India and Bangladesh. The project also includes one major bridge and three minor bridges.
The MoU was signed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in January 2010. After that, the project, which started in 2016, is being extended for the fourth time till June 2024. In other words, this project, which has been going on for 13 years, is finally seeing the light of day. The project was supposed to be over in 2020 but was delayed following land acquisition issues and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The 15-kilometre-long railway line would link Bangladesh's Akhaura through an international immigration station at Nischintapur along the India-Bangladesh border.Once operational, the railway will reduce travel time between Agartala and Kolkata from 31 hours to 10 hours, creating a plethora of opportunities for trade, tourism, and cultural exchange.
The Railway Ministry of India allocated Rs 153.84 crore for this project. The Ministry of DONER (Development of North Eastern Region) is funding the project and that Rs 708.74 crore of the estimated cost has already been provided and utilised.This railway link is part of the 16 transit routes that have been declared allowing cargo transportation from Chattogram or Mongla port to Indian states.

Small but effective

Upon completion of this railway link, two Indian states, including Tripura and West Bengal, will easily be connected with Bangladesh.This new railway link will reduce travel time between the two Indian cities of Kolkata and Agartala. The train from Agartala to Kolkata will cover a distance of 500 kilometres via Dhaka in around 16 hours. Upon completion of the project, the travel time between Agartala and Kolkata via Dhaka, which currently takes about 31 hours, will be reduced to 10 hours.
The 15-km long railway link connecting Agartala with Gangasagar will play a crucial role in the overall development of the North Eastern region. Those from Mizoram, which is 150 kilometres away, and those from Agartala will benefit from the current line.
Not only that, India and Bangladesh have signed an agreement, allowing Indian traders to use Chattogram and Mongla ports in Bangladesh for transportation of goods.. This railway will not only increase the movement of the people of two countries but will also play an important role in the import and export of goods from Chittagong port, resulting in a boost in trade and adding value to the economic development of both nations as well as states. Not only that, this railline would boost the tourism sector of both of the countries.
The new rail project will enhance relations between India and Bangladesh and aid in the growth of small-scale industries in the border area and boost tourism in the northeastern region. Facilitating faster export and import of commodities would benefit local producers in exporting their products outside the country.
---
*PhD fellow, International Relations, University of Bucharest

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