Silchar/Agartala, May 3 (IANS) Rail services between the rest of India and southern Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram that have been suspended for the past one week following heavy landslides may resume by Friday, officials said on Tuesday.
“Railway workers have cleared most of the debris in many places in southern Assam’s North Cachar Hills district. The huge mudslides together with stones covering more than 100 metre of rail track at Fidhing are being cleared,” a Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) official said in Silchar.
He said it would take another 3-4 days to clear the debris and make way for trains. “We are expecting to restore rail services in the region by Friday,” he said.
Railway officials and engineers are camping at the spot, 300 km south of Assam’s main city Guwahati, to supervise the clearance work.
Due to heavy rains, huge landslides occurred in the Lumding-Badarpur hill section in southern Assam on April 27.
NFR chief public relations officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma said four major trains running between Guwahati and Silchar, including the Silchar-Guwahati Kanchanjunga Express, have been cancelled till May 5 due to the mudslides.
The Kanchanjunga Express was introduced between Silchar and Sealdah in Kolkata via Guwahati on February 1, meeting a long-standing demand of the people to link southern Assam with other parts of the country.
The railway line from Guwahati passes through southern Assam connecting land-locked Tripura’s capital Agartala and parts of Manipur and Mizoram with the rest of India.
Meanwhile, the Tripura government has asked the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to build a buffer stock of rice and other essential commodities for the state before the monsoon intensifies in the region.
Many passengers, bound for Guwahati and the rest of the country, were stranded in southern Assam’s Badarpur, Silchar and Lumding areas after the landslide.
The Guwahati-Silchar railway line is the lifeline for southern Assam comprising four districts, known as Barak Valley, and the mountainous states of Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram.
These states are heavily dependent on this railway line for supply of foodgrain, fertilisers, petroleum products, construction materials and other commodities.
Meanwhile, the NFR since Monday is running passenger trains on trial basis from Badarpur to Agartala.
The two pairs of trial trains would run till Thursday in the newly-laid broad gauge line.
The 437-km Lumding-Silchar and Badarpur-Agartala gauge conversion work was sanctioned in 1996. It was declared a national project in 2004, thereby ensuring uninterrupted funding from the central government’s general budget. The project was hit by insurgency from 2006 to 2009 and works could only gain speed after that turbulent period.
In the first phase, the 210-km Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion project was completed last year.
In the second phase, the 227-km Badarpur-Agartala gauge conversion was scheduled to be completed in March but was completed three months earlier.
With the completion of gauge conversion work right up to Agartala, the Tripura capital was connected with the country’s broad gauge railway network through Guwahati at a distance of about 600 km.