Amidst the Covid-19 related restrictions and dealing with the serious topographical hurdles and challenges, Manipurs Imphal will be the fourth capital city in the mountainous northeastern region expected to come on the Indian railway map within the next 27 months.
The North-east Frontier Railways (NFR), which has already connected Assam's main city Guwahati (adjoining capital Dispur), Tripura capital Agartala and Arunachal Pradesh's Naharlagun (adjacent to capital city Itanagar), is laying tracks to connect the capital cities of two more northeastern states -- Mizoram and Nagaland.
There is no precise plan of the NFR when Meghalaya capital Shillong and Sikkim capital Gangtok would come on the railway network as railway construction work has not even seriously started in the two northeastern states.
NFR Chief Public Relations Officer Guneet Kaur said that the NFR (Construction) organisation is executing the Jiribam-Imphal new broad gauge railway line (111 km) project at an estimated cost of Rs 12,264.15 crore and the target date for completion of the project is December 2023.
"Eight new station buildings, 11 major bridges, 134 minor bridges, four road overbridges, 12 road underbridges and a record length of over 71,066 meter of tunnelling are being constructed," she told IANS.
"Various issues related to timely completion of the project were discussed by all stakeholders. Timely completion of this project is very crucial for further extending rail connectivity to Myanmar in future, in keeping with the "Act East Policy" of the Indian government," the CPRO said.
A senior engineer of the NFR (construction wing) said that for the first time in India, a safety tunnel for the safe evacuation of people during any emergency at tunnel number 12 has been constructed on the Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal railway line which is significant as the section would have the tallest bridge in the world and the longest railway tunnel in India.
Completion of the project will expose the rich culture of Manipur to the world, he said.
The 11.55 km long tunnel number 12 is the longest railway tunnel in India on the Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal railway line and this tunnel is longer than the famous Pir Panjal tunnel (8.5 km) on the Banihal-Qazigund line in Jammu and Kashmir.
The approximate cost for construction of this tunnel, which lies in the two districts of Manipur, Senapati and Imphal West, and is situated in the western part of the Imphal Valley, would be Rs 930 crore.
"For the safe evacuation of people during any emergency at tunnel number 12, a parallel 9.35 km long safety tunnel has been constructed as per international technical specifications. The main tunnel and parallel safety tunnel will be connected through cross passages at every 500 meter. Rs 368 crore was spent to construct the safety tunnel," the engineer said.
The 111 km long Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal new broad gauge railway project was taken up in 2008 and was declared a 'National Project' owing to its importance.
The first train in the north-east region chugged out from the industrial city of Dibrugarh in eastern Assam around 140 years ago.
The NFR, one among the 17 railway zones in India, operates fully and partially in six of the eight northeastern states, excluding Meghalaya and Sikkim, and in seven districts of West Bengal and five districts of north Bihar.
The NFR engineers said the landscape, soil conditions and other natural challenges have forced the railways to invest more money and to confront diverse challenges in the northeastern region.
"Soil or earth-bearing capacity of the northeastern region is much less compared to other parts of the country. But for the railway engineers, nothing is impossible," the NFR engineer claimed.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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