Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a slew of railway projects in poll-bound West Bengal on Monday amidst claims by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) that they were announced by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during her tenure as railway minister.
Modi inaugurated the extension of metro railway from Noapara to Dakshineswar and flagged off the first service on the stretch. He also inaugurated the third line between Kalaikunda and Jhargram.
The much awaited extended stretch of metro railway from Noapara to Dakshineswar has been constructed at a cost of Rs 464 crore, fully funded by the Centre.
"This extended stretch will provide fast, easy, pollution-free travel bereft of traffic snarls to thousands of commuters in the city and its adjoining areas. Around 50,000 daily commuters coming from Howrah, Hooghly and North 24 Parganas will be benefitted from this extension," a statement from the railway ministry said.
Addressing a rally, Modi said the projects unveiled on Monday will ease the lives of lakhs of people around Hooghly.
He added that better means of transport will strengthen the country's resolve for self-reliance and expressed happiness that apart from Kolkata, the people of Hooghly, Howrah and North 24 Parganas districts shall also get the benefits of metro service.
Modi said with the inauguration of the Noapara-Dakshineswar stretch, the travel time between the two destinations would be reduced from 90 minutes to 25 minutes. He said these services would greatly benefit students and workers.
The prime minister expressed happiness that the impact of "Make in India" is visible in the metro or railway systems being constructed in the country. From laying tracks to modern locomotives, modern trains and modern coaches, goods and technology have become indigenous.
This has sped up project execution and improved the quality of construction.
Modi said there are immense possibilities of international trade for West Bengal and the northeast. He said with these new rail lines, life will be easier and new avenues will be available for industries.
"With this extension, lakhs of tourists and devotees will be able to visit the two world famous Kali temples at Kalighat and Dakshineswar easily by metro. Commuting from Dakshineswar to Kavi Subhash (New Garia) by metro will take only 62 minutes as compared to two-and-a-half hours by road," the railways said.
However, the ruling TMC in West Bengal claimed that the funds for these projects were allocated during Banerjee's tenure as rail minister.
"Today, the PM claimed to have started new rail routes in Bengal. Jhoot! Mamata Banerjee as Rail Minister allocated the budget, on 25 February 2011!@PIB_India nails the lies of Mr Teleprompter! See for yourself PIB official government release," TMC national spokesperson Derek O'Brien said in a tweet, attaching a government release from February 25, 2011 that said Banerjee announced 34 new services in the Kolkata Metro during 2011-12.
The TMC supremo, who was the railway minister then, had also informed the Lok Sabha that the entire section from Mahanayak Uttam Kumar (Tollygunge) to Kavi Subhash (New Garia) had been commissioned.
Modi also inaugurated the third line between Kalaikunda and Jhargram (30 km) of the 132-km-long Kharagpur-Adityapur Third Line Project of the South Eastern Railway, which was sanctioned with an estimated cost of Rs 1,312 crore. The project covers 55 km in West Bengal and 77 km in Jharkhand.
The commissioning of this third line will help improve mobility in the Kharagpur-Adityapur section and ensure a seamless movement of passenger and freight trains on the Howrah-Mumbai Trunk route.
The prime minister also dedicated the doubling of the section between Azimganj to Khagraghat Road, which is part of the Howrah-Bandel-Azimganj section of the Eastern Railway, at a project cost of Rs 239.38 crore.
"This route is extremely important for the movement of passengers and freight to northeastern states as it acts as an alternative route from Kolkata to New Jalpaiguri and Guwahati and connects important power plants of Sagardighi of the West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited, NTPC Farakka and places of religious and historical importance," the railways said.
Modi also dedicated the fourth line between Dankuni and Baruipara (11.28 km) of the Howrah-Bardhaman chord line and the third line between Rasulpur and Magra (42.42 km) of the Howrah-Bardhaman main line.
"Both these projects are super critical projects and will enhance the capacity on the highly-utilised network in Hooghly district of West Bengal.
"Commissioning of the third line between Rasulpur and Magra section, at a cost of Rs 759 crore, will help in running more passenger and goods trains on this saturated section," the railways said.
The commissioning of the fourth line between Dankuni and Baruipara on the over-saturated Howrah-New Delhi Rajdhani route at a project cost of Rs 195 crore will also help run more passenger and goods trains.
These projects of the Eastern and South Eastern Railway will ensure better operational fluidity, a reduced travel time and safety of train operations as well as the overall economic growth of the region, the national transporter said.