Train services between the northeastern region of India and the rest of the country are expected to resume on a trial basis from Tuesday, officials said on Monday.
The rail link with the northeast has remained snapped for over a fortnight now due to the floods ravaging West Bengal and Bihar, besides parts of the hilly region.
All the trains between the mountainous northeastern states and the rest of India pass through New Jalpaiguri station in north Bengal and Katihar division in Bihar.
“Engineers, officials and workers of Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) have been working on a war-footing to restore railway services which has been completely snapped with other parts of the country due to heavy floods since August 12,” an NFR official said.
“Due to the massive floods in Bihar, West Bengal and Assam, train services in the northeastern states came almost to a standstill earlier this month. But the services were largely restored within the region after the NFR engineers, officials and workers worked round-the-clock.”
The floods caused extensive damage to railway tracks, bridges, culverts, communication systems and other infrastructure.
The official said that currently, railway tracks were in worst shape between Sudhani and Telta stations in Kishanganj district under Katihar division of the NFR.
“Engineers of Army’s Military Engineering Services (MES) have also been working round-the-clock in an unprecedented endeavour to restore train services from Tuesday,” the official added.
According to the official, on Tuesday, a goods train with railway materials will ply first to check the condition of the renovated tracks.
“If the goods train moves trouble-free, then the passenger train will be run through the repaired railway tracks and bridges,” he added.
The NFR serves seven districts in West Bengal and five districts in north Bihar, besides the seven northeastern states.
Another NFR official said due to cancellation of trains and the resulting cancellation of tickets, the NFR had suffered a loss of around Rs 650 crore so far.
“Though it has not been estimated yet, but the NFR might have suffered another Rs 500-600 crore loss because of damage to railway assets, including bridges, culverts, tracks and communication network,” he said.
Due to the suspension of train services between the northeastern region and the rest of the country, scarcity of many essentials, food grains and other vital items have affected life in the region.
“Crisis of food items, essentials and household goods put the people of the northeastern region in a troubled situation,” said Satya Ranjan Kundu, spokesman of a key trading association.
Assam’s Food and Civil Supplies officials held a series of meetings with the NFR to chalk out ways to transport essentials, foodgrains and other important goods.
Tripura Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Minister Bhanulal Saha said they were in touch with the NFR to ferry goods to Tripura from other parts of the country.
“The railway services between the northeast and the rest of India are likely to be restored by the first week of September,” Saha told IANS, quoting the railway officials.