“The data collected through such studies are being regularly sent to Delhi where the designing is being done to incorporate necessary alterations and changes. Also, as we have a section of forest cover and the presence of wildlife near Kalimpong, it is imperative that we obtain no-objection certificate from the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) before the commencement of the construction.
“Given the present state of progress, it seems that we would be able to start laying the tracks by the end of this year.”
The project, launched by Mamata Banerjee as railway minister in 2009, is considered ambitious, given the nature of the terrain. She had also announced that the rail track would be extended to Gangtok from Rangpo and another route from Mirik too would connect the capital of Sikkim to the plains in Bengal. Mirik in Kurseong sub-division is around 50km from here.
“The surveys on both these routes (Rangpo-Gangtok and Mirik-Gangtok) are complete. We are waiting for the final nod and funds in the coming days to lay tracks on these routes,” Singh said.
On April 19, a high-level team of MoEF officials had visited Siliguri to see the proposed rail route to Rangpo and assess its impact on the hills and the environment as a whole.
The deputy chief engineer said a preliminary survey had been also carried out for the Chulsa-Naxal route in the Dooars. “It is a 16km stretch and the rail line would move into Naxal (not Naxalbari), a small hamlet on the Jaldhaka-Jhalong-Bindu route, from the main track that passes through the Dooars,” Singh said. “Here too, we need to have permission from the Union forest ministry and the state forest department to execute the project. A new station has been proposed at Metelli, near Chulsa in the Dooars.”
“The work of doubling tracks in the two stretches — Ambari-Falakata to New Mainaguri and New Cooch Behar to Samuktala Road — will, however, start as soon as railway land is available for laying the second track on these routes,” the NFR official said. “Around Rs 20 crore has been allotted for these projects.”
Singh also said the new broad gauge track between Siliguri Junction and Aluabari Road — a second alternative route between Islampur and Siliguri — is ready. “It was also formally inaugurated by the rail minister on May 17 and we expect to commission it by May 31,” he said.
Once commissioned, NFR sources said, the “railbus” (a single compartment train with an engine and capacity of around 70 people) will start running between Bagdogra and Siliguri Junction.