Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday inaugurated the international train route between Agartala in Tripura and Akhaura in Bangladesh’s Brahmanbaria district, PTI reported.

Tripura Chief Minister Dr Manik Saha, who also participated at the inauguration event virtually, said that the 12.2-km railway line is crucial for connectivity in India’s northeastern region.

“Tripura is going to be the gateway for tourism and transport between India and Bangladesh,” The Indian Express quoted Saha as saying. “With the establishment of the Agartala-Akhaura railway project, the distance between Agartala and Kolkata will effectively reduce from 1,600 km to 500 km now.”

The reduced distance is expected to cut the travel time between Agartala and Kolkata from 38 hours to 10 hours. The project will provide Tripura direct access to the Chittagong port in Bangladesh and boost cross-border trade.

A memorandum of understanding for the Indo-Bangla train route was signed in 2013. The work on it started in 2016 with an initial allocation of Rs 972.52 crore. Of the total, Rs 580 crore was sanctioned for work in India and Rs 392.52 crore in Bangladesh.

However, the budget has since been revised twice. The final cost of the project has been estimated at Rs 1,255.10 crore. Of this, Rs 862.58 crore was allocated for work on the Indian side.

The cost of the project has been borne by the Indian government. The Ministry for Development of North East Region funded the work on the Indian side. The Ministry of External Affairs paid for the work carried out in Bangladesh through its Aid to Bangladesh fund.

Of the total length of the railway line, 5.46 km of dual gauge line is in Tripura and 6.7 km is in Akhaura. A total of 86.85 acres was acquired for the project in India.

The work on the Indian side was implemented by the Indian Railway Construction International Limited, a public sector undertaking of the Indian Railways. In Bangladesh, the construction was carried out by Texmaco, an Indian private engineering and infrastructure company.

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