NEW DELHI, March 27 � Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today flagged off a goods train at Lumding, formally inaugurating the much-delayed Lumding-Silchar broad gauge line.
Flagging off the train through video conferencing, in presence of top officials of the Rail Ministry here, including Railway Board Chairman AK Mittal, the Railway Minister said that in coming days, the Railway Ministry would strive to connect the north-eastern region with the rest of the country. �We will give more projects to the North-east region,� he assured.
The second phase of the project, which proposes to connect Manipur and Mizoram, would be taken up from October.
The Minister also complemented the team of railwaymen who executed the project, and announced a reward of Rs 15 lakh to them.
The inaugural function at Lumding was joined by Lok Sabha MP Rajen Gohain, Rajya Sabha MP Nazneen Faruque and MLA Swapan Kar.
Describing the event as a historic occasion, Prabhu said Barak Valley is considered the lifeline of the State and the region has grown in importance. �As the Prime Minister wants to bring the region at par with rest of the country, the Railways has started to work in a big way,� he said.
Recently, the capitals of Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya were connected by railway.
Admitting that north-eastern States are not remembered as often, he said that the Railway Ministry would �reconnect and intensify its relation with the eight sisters States of the region�. �In coming days, we will expand our relation with the north-eastern States and the relations will be more important.�
The region will see prosperity, as more employment would be generated, he said.
Addressing the function, Railway Board Chairman AK Mittal said that at least 70 persons lost their lives during the construction of the project.
Describing the project as a huge technical challenge, Mittal said that completion of the 210km gauge conversion work was an important milestone for the railways.
Though the project work was started in 1996-1997, the work was slow, but it got a boost when it was declared a National Project in 2004, and adequate funds were made available, he said.
The Phase I of the project was constructed at a cost of Rs 3,500 crore. The line has 79 major bridges and 340 minor bridges, besides 21 tunnels. The work involved working at 101 locations simultaneously.
The Kumarghat-Agartala metre gauge line will also be converted to broad gauge soon. This will provide seamless connectivity to the capital of Tripura with the rest of the country, said VK Gupta, Member, Engineering.
He said Manipur and Mizoram would also be on BG map by March next year on completion of works of Phase II, he told newsmen.