NEW DELHI: In a striking development, the Indian railways is expected to connect the capitals of all the eight northeastern states by 2020 under “Mission 2020” of the railways.

Rajesh Kumar Singh, the Northeast Frontier Railway General Manager informed the media of this development at Silchar on Monday. “All capital cities of North East states, including Sikkim, will be under Indian Railways map by 2020. The railway department has started ‘Mission 2020′ and it will implement it very strictly within the stipulated timeframe”, he said.

Singh also unveiled individual state-wise time limits set by them.

Stating that the broad gauge would reach Agartala by March 2016, he said “By the next year, that is March 31, 2017, we will have railway connection upto Tupul in Manipur. Within March 31, 2018, BG line will start up to Sairang, near Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram,”. Singh added the the work for setting up of a new line from Tupul to Imphal will be finished by March, 2019, and then the train would reach Shillong and Rangpo (near Gangtok) in Sikkim by March 2020”.

However, Singh could not commit the time limit set for the state of Nagaland but said that work was in full swing to connect Kohima as well.

He proudly proclaimed that the NF Railway has chalked out plans to fulfil the targets within the stipulated time frame and also informed that the construction of the world's tallest railway bridge (bridge number 164), with the height of the pillars up to 141 metres, at None in Manipur is going on in full swing.

The present tallest railway bridge is the Mala-Rijeka viaduct in Montenegro in Europe where the height of pillars is 139 metres.

Leading a 45-member NFR team, Singh had arrived at the Silchar railway station from Guwahati on Sunday with the first nine-bogie railway trial inspection train, which left for Guwahati on Monday.

The team said it had successfully carried out the trial run of a diesel engine from Lumding to Silchar on the newly-converted broad gauge line on Friday, adding that the regular train service on the new broad gauge line would be conducted from April after clearance by the Railway Safety Commissioner.

The Silchar-Lumding route on which freight trains would start running before March 31 has some five to six spots that are very susceptible where problems might arise, especially during rainy seasons, Singh anticipated. However, he said NF Railway is equipped with all the latest technologies to address any sort of hindrance in the movement of trains.

The total length of Lumding-Silchar broad gauge line is 220 km and it consists of 17 tunnels (the longest 3.235 km long), 79 major bridges, 340 minor bridges, 28 railway stations and four halt stations.The maximum permissible speed of the train in hilly area is 70kmph while in plains it is 100kmph.

The NFR official further informed that the Silchar-Agartala railway track would now be converted from meter gauge to broad gauge by March next year.

This Silchar-Lumding broad gauge project was first scheduled to be completed by 2006, but it dragged on with the constant changing of deadlines, which had an impact on the national exchequer as the project cost shot up from Rs 648 crore to Rs 5,185.44 crore.

The Railways had been receiving flak for the constant delay in the project owing to the huge costs and also because it is considered to be a lifeline for southern Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur.

The foundation stone of this Silchar-Lumding project was laid by former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda in the presence of the then Union railway minister Ram Vilas Paswan in April 1996.

With this new ‘Mission 2020’, the most prominent issue of connectivity in the northeast would be solved to a major extent provided there isn’t a delay this time.