Thursday, 22 May 2008

Phuentsholing on railway map by 2010

21 May, 2008 - The “Golden Jubilee Rail Link,” that will put the border town of Phuentsholing on the global railway map, should be ready by March 2010, if all goes according to plan.

The project involves building 17.5 km of rail link, at a cost of about Nu 2.7 billion, that will connect Phuentsholing to the nearby Indian town of Hasimara on the New Jalpaiguri-Alipur Duar route of the northeast frontier railway, according to a feasibility study done on the project.

The project will be funded from the Nu 100 billion commitment to Bhutan over the next five years announced by the Indian prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, during his recent visit to the country.

According to officials of the information and communication ministry, the terminal point of the rail link in Phuentsholing will be on the banks of the Toorsa river after plans to take a bifurcation to Pasakha industrial estate were shelved.

The feasibility report stated that there was not enough space at the proposed site at Pasakha for a railway yard even with minimum facilities. “Pasakha is not technically feasible because the site is surrounded by water bodies and situated at the confluence of Padzeka chhu and Singi chhu,” stated the report.

However, an official from the policy and planning division of the communication ministry, said that the report had been submitted to the GNH commission to see if there was any possibilities of a bifurcation to Pasakha, the industrial heartland of Bhutan. A study done by a government of India enterprise, RITES ltd., also points out that the rail link is not financially viable. An earning analysis, both from passenger and freight, states that, even by 2030 -2031, the link will only earn about Nu 2,015.49 million.

The study scrutinized two alignment alternatives and recommended the link to take off from the existing Hasimara railway station of New Jalpaiguri-Alipurduar route of northeast frontier railway. The existing centreline of Hashimara railway station would be the starting point or Kilometre 0/00. According to the study, this alignment was shorter, passed by inhabited areas, was closer to existing road and needed less number of metalled road crossings.

Bhutan and India signed a memorandum of understanding to establish railway links between the bordering towns of India and Bhutan on January 25, 2005 during His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo’s visit to India.

According to the MoU, it was agreed that the government of India would carry out feasibility studies for establishing broad gauge rail links between Hasimara and Phuentsholing, Kokrajhar (Assam) and Gelephu, Pathsala and Samdrup Jongkhar via Daranga, Rangia and Nanglam, and Banarhat and Samtse.

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