“We would connect all the states of the eight states by rail within 2020,” Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) general manager Rakesh Kumar Singh told the media here.
Mizoram’s capital Aizawl and Manipur’s capital Imphal would be connected by railway network by 2018 and 2019 respectively.
“The capitals of the remaining states would be linked by 2020. Work is on to achieve the target,” he said.
Tripura’s capital Agartala is already connected by rail though the line between Silchar (Assam) and Agartala is meter gauge.
Agartala came up on the country’s rail map in 2008. Currently, northeastern states have around 2,700 km of railway line comprising meter gauge and broad gauge lines, officials said.
Singh, leading a 45-member NFR team, arrived at the Silchar railway station from Guwahati on Sunday with the first nine-bogie railway trial inspection train, which left for Guwahati on Monday.
On Friday, the team said it successfully carried out the trial run of a diesel engine from Lumding to Silchar on the newly-converted broad gauge line.
The regular train service on the new broad gauge line would be conducted from April after clearance by the Railway Safety Commissioner.
The total length of Lumding-Silchar broad gauge line is 220 km and it consists of 17 tunnels (the longest 3.235 km long), 79 major bridges, 340 minor bridges, 28 railway stations and four halt stations.
The NFR official said now the Silchar-Agartala railway track would be converted from meter gauge to broad gauge by March next year.
The foundation of the much-delayed gauge conversion project — Lumding to Silchar and Silchar to Agartala — was laid by the then prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda at Silchar in 1996.
The railways have faced severe criticism for the delay in completing the Rs.5,185-crore project that is considered to be a lifeline for southern Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur.
Singh said by March 31, 2020, railway lines will go up to Meghalaya’s capital Shillong and Rangpo in Sikkim.
He said work was on in full swing to fulfil the projects within time to connect Nagaland capital Kohima. At present, the state has 13 km railway line up to Dimapur town.
Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, in his budget speech in parliament on February 26, said the Indian Railways was committed to providing rail connectivity to all the northeastern states.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 29, 2014 flagged off a train between Meghalaya’s Mendipathar and Guwahati, a distance of 131 km, and laid the foundation stone for a 51.38 km new broad gauge railway line between Bhairabi and Sairang in Mizoram.
On February 20, Modi flagged off the first weekly air-conditioned express train service between Delhi and Arunachal Pradesh in Itanagar.