Work on the proposed railway connectivity between West Bengal and Sikkim, the Sevoke-Rangpo rail line, will start once the land acquisition process is over, General manager (Construction), of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), Nilesh Kishore Prasad, said on Monday.
Mr Prasad, who also said that air-conditioned coaches for the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) may be introduced in April, on Monday visited Sukna near Siliguri to inspect the infrastructural situation of the proposed railway project on Monday.
It may be mentioned here that after landing in land acquisition and green corridor trouble and after complaints and court cases, the Supreme Court has finally given a go-ahead for Sikkim’s first railway project.
Sources said Mr Prasad may meet Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is presently touring Darjeeling, on the land acquisition issue. Mr Pasad said the project will kick off following the land acquisition.
The then railway minister, Miss Banerjee had laid the foundation stone for the Rs 1,339.48 crore railway project on 30 October, 2009, while the same was to be completed by 2015.
The 44.98-km railway line will pass through forest land that falls under the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, out of which 41.54 km falls in Bengal, while only 3.43 km falls in Sikkim.
“I came here to take stock of the situation and inspect the project. Land acquisition is required for the project, and most of the land in question falls in West Bengal. The project will kick off following the land acquisition,” he said.
Sources said that the Railways needs more than 90 acres of land for the project, under which there will be 28 bridges and 14 tunnels, with the longest tunnel being 5.1km and the route under the tunnels 38. 53 km. Mr Prasad said the Railways was in touch with the state government on the land acquisition issue.
Meanwhile, railway authorities are set introduce air-conditioned coaches for the DHR’s Toy Train. Two coaches have been developed in Siliguri, while two more coaches are being readied.
At present, the Toy Train engine carries three first class non-air conditioned coaches. Railway officials said the chairman of the Railway Board, Ashwani Lohani, may inaugurate the same during his proposed visit here next month.
DHR director MK Narzary said a trial run with a single air-conditioned coach was conducted on Monday, and that Mr Prasad was in the coach. Tourism stakeholders, meanwhile, said they were hopeful that the AC coaches would attract more tourists.