SHILLONG, July 8 � There is a sense of celebration in Meghalaya after the Union Railway Minister, Sadanand Gowda today announced the first passenger train between Guwahati connecting Mendhipathar in North Garo Hills.
The distance between the two destinations is 131 km and a passenger train would now run between Mendhipathar and Guwahati via Dudhnoi on a daily basis. �We are delighted at the announcement and this rail service would have positive impact on the economy of the State and also the environment,� Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said.
Meghalaya is a landlocked State and is dependent on land transport. Due to transportation by land transport, prices of most items brought into the State have remained comparatively higher than most parts of the country.
However, the rail service is not the first of its kind for Meghalaya. In fact, the State had a railway connection during the British era when on June 16, 1886, Cherra Companyganj State Railways ferried passengers between Tharia and Companyganj, now in Bangladesh, a distance of 7.5 miles, for the first time. The service discontinued after the track was destroyed in the earthquake of 1897.
Since then, there has been no railway service in the State and there has been vehement opposition towards the railways from the NGOs in the State, which claimed that it would encourage influx.
The Chief Minister, meanwhile, said that he is grateful to the people of Garo Hills for the manner in which they supported the project. He stated that people willingly parted with their land for the project and in some cases they took the land compensation much later from the date of parting with their land.
�This railway service would bring great economic changes for the State as it was one of the crucial projects that the State sought from the Central government,� he added.
In February this year, a patch of railway line was connected between Dudhnoi in Goalpara district of Assam and Mendhipathar in North Garo Hills � a total distance of 19. 47 km. A railway station has been built and the train service was due to run from April this year, but was delayed because of the general elections.
With Gowda�s announcement about the train service in his rail budget, Sangma said the service should begin �at the earliest.� The Chief Minister added that it would be his government�s endeavour now to connect the State capital with rail network.