NF Railway enabling sustainable infra growth of North East

NF Railway enabling sustainable infra growth of North East

The North East (NE) region has a very special place in all developmental agendas of the Government of India. Indian Railways is significantly contributing towards the transformation of this region through better modes of transportation & connecting far-off areas with the mainstream, says Suni...

The North East (NE) region has a very special place in all developmental agendas of the Government of India. Indian Railways is significantly contributing towards the transformation of this region through better modes of transportation & connecting far-off areas with the mainstream, says Sunil Kumar Jha, GM, North Frontier Railway (Construction). Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) is providing uninterrupted services of transporting essential commodities in its jurisdiction despite harsh challenges and has helped in boosting the economy of the region. It is one of the biggest zones serving an area spread over eight northeastern states and parts of Bihar & West Bengal. NF Railway has been serving one of the most varied and difficult terrains in the country. This zone also shares a border with several foreign countries, such as Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and China making it an area of immense strategic importance. The North-eastern region has a very special place in all developmental agenda of the Government of India. Indian Railways is significantly contributing towards the transformation of this region through better modes of transportation & connecting far-off areas with the mainstream. Infrastructure As part of an initiative of the Government of India’s “Act East” policy, Indian Railways has been strengthening the Railway network in the Northeast Region, also providing capital connectivity in all North-Eastern States apart from executing several international connectivity projects. State Capital Connectivity: Railway Connectivity in the Northeast started way back in 1881. However, since then the states which were mainly brought on the Railway’s map were Assam & Tripura, albeit in MG. However, in recent years, the push to connect the other states gained momentum. Since 2014, Railways has connected many important cities in different states. Examples are- Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh & Mendipathar in Meghalaya. To provide connectivity to the State of Sikkim, a massive infrastructural work is going on to connect Sivok of West Bengal with Rangpo of Sikkim under 45 Km- long Sivok - Rangpo New Line project. Besides, survey work for connecting Rangpo - Gangtok and further extension from Gangtok up to Nathula is also in progress. After connecting Mendipathar, the Railway now plans to connect the capital of Meghalaya i.e., Shillong. Even though stiff resistance has been faced by some factions of the state, NFR is committed to connecting the capital of Meghalaya, Shillong. At the same time, plans for additional connectivity within the state are being explored simultaneously. The railway connectivity has already been extended up to Khongsang and work up to Imphal, the capital of Manipur is in progress. In Mizoram, the 51 Km Bairabi - Sairang New Line Project to connect Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram is going on in full swing. For connecting the capital of Nagaland, the Dimapur - Kohima New Line project is progressing at a fast pace and the passenger train operation has already been extended up to Shukhovi. With the commissioning of Shukhovi station, Nagaland got its second railway station after a gap of more than 100 years. Many important surveys have either been conducted or are in progress such as surveys of Dharamnagar - Pencharthal, Chandranathpur – Agartala, Sairang - Hbichhuah, Patharkandi – Kanmun, Dimapur - Tizitis lines etc. are in progress. International Connectivity: As a part of the Act East Policy, NF Railway is executing a number of international connectivity projects in furtherance of establishing the Trans-Asian Railway Network (TAR). The 12.20 Km long Agartala - Akahura new line project will provide the sixth international connectivity between India with Bangladesh. For developing rail connectivity with Myanmar, a survey is in progress for extending the undergoing project of the Jiribam–Tupul-Imphal railway line to Moreh and Tamu. A survey has also been conducted for extending the ongoing project of the Bhairabi-Sairang railway line to Hbichhuah at the southernmost border of Mizoram from where connectivity to Sittwe port in Myanmar can be established in future and form a part of the Kaladan multi-modal project. For further connectivity with Bangladesh, Mahisasan - Bangladesh Border work is in progress. Besides, two PET surveys were completed for the Kokrajhar - Gelephu and Mujnai - Nyoenpaling routes for developing rail connectivity with Bhutan. Electrification: In order to minimise dependence on fossil fuels Indian Railways is working in mission mode to become the largest “Green Railways” in the world. In an endeavour for complete electrification, NF Railway has achieved electrification of 1788.584 RKM (Route Kilometres) which is 41.13 per cent of the total 4348 RKM of the network, as part of its target of achieving net zero carbon emission. The zone plans to electrify its entire route kilometres by December 2023. In the North-eastern states, a total route of 2975.23 km is to be electrified. Out of the total electrified routes in the Northeast, 748.409 Km in Assam and 9.58 Km in Meghalaya have already been electrified. For further speeding up the electrification works, Indian Railway Construction International Limited (IRCON), Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES), NFR/Construction and Central Organisation for Railway Electrification (CORE) have been executing the electrification works in a phased manner at NFR. Electrification will significantly improve the mobility of trains on NFR and strengthen the Rail network in Northeastern states in addition to the reduction in pollution. Investment In a bid to further enhance rail facilities in Northeast and Assam, Rs 102.69 billion have been allocated in the current budget of 2023-24. This is an increase of 384% as compared to average allotment of Rs 21.22 billion during 2009-14. Along with selected railway stations from the rest of the country, a total of 91 stations of NFR have been identified under the Amrit Bharat Station Scheme. The foundation stone for re-development of 56 stations was laid by the Prime Minister on August 6, 2023. A tune of Rs 51 billion has been allocated for the re-development of 91 stations under NFR. Out of which Rs 19.60 billion will be utilised for the re-development of these 56 stations. Out of 56 stations, there are 32 stations in Assam (Rs 9.90 billion), 03 stations in Tripura (Rs 9.6 billion), 16 stations in West Bengal (Rs 4.746 billion), 03 stations in Bihar (Rs 934 million) and one station each in Nagaland (Rs 2.656 billion) and Meghalaya (Rs 390 million). Innovation In a historic moment, Northeast Frontier Railway had bagged the PMI South Asia award for Micro Project of the Year with its entry “Intrusion Detection System for saving elephant lives” on September 2, 2023. This is for the first time ever that any zonal railway under the Ministry of Railways has bagged this award since its inception in 2009. Intrusion Detection System (IDS) is an eco-sustainable solution to protect elephants and improve mobility in train operations. The system is based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and existing optical fibres will be used as sensors to identify the movements of wild animals at locations and alert control offices, station masters, gatemen and loco pilots. It uses a fibre optic-based acoustic system working on the principle of dialysis scattering phenomenon to sense the real-time presence of elephants on the track. The AI-based software can monitor un-usual movements up to 40 km on either side of the main unit (i.e. total stretch of 80 km). In addition to it the IDS will also help in detecting rail fractures, trespassing on railway tracks and alert about disaster mitigation due to unauthorised digging near railway tracks, landslides near tracks etc. After 100 per cent success of the pilot project on IDS that was undertaken by N.F. Railway in the Chalsa – Hasimara section of the Dooars area under Alipurduar Division in West Bengal and Lanka – Hawaipur section under Lumding Division in Assam, it has now been decided to install the system gradually in all other elephant corridors spread over N.F. Railway. The pilot project has already been immensely successful in saving the lives of many elephants approaching railway tracks from being hit by trains. RDPMS: In a bid to achieve the vision of the Hon’ble Prime Minister to make use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create a better future for citizens, Indian Railways decided to shift from a Schedule based Maintenance regime to a Predictive based Maintenance regime to reduce the load on maintenance of assets. In line with it, the Remote Diagnostic and Predictive Maintenance System (RDPMS) has been installed at Tangla Station under the Rangiya Division. The RDPMS is designed for monitoring of signalling gears to predict possible failures. This will result in safer and more punctual train operations. In future, such AI-based maintenance shall be used for all fixed assets in NFR like bridges, etc. NCDAC: A Network Control & Data Analytics Centre (NCDAC) is being developed at N. F. Railway Headquarters, Maligaon to promote the use of technical advancement in IT-related fields. NCDAC will be developed as a common hub of IT-related solutions for all departments of the Railway. Measures are being taken to make use of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, Networking etc. in railway-related data analysis. Inclusion The ‘One Station One Product’ (OSOP) scheme has been launched by Indian Railways with objectives to promote the ‘Vocal for Local’ vision of the Government of India, provide a market for local/indigenous products and create additional income opportunities for the marginalised sections of society. Under the jurisdiction of NFR, 129 OSOP outlets are functioning as of August 24, 2023 spreading over 95 railway stations. In Bihar, 13 OSOP outlets in 7 stations; in West Bengal, 46 outlets in 30 stations; in Assam, 66 outlets in 54 stations; in Tripura, 2 outlets in 2 stations and in the states of Arunachal Pradesh & Nagaland, one outlet in one station each. All the stalls are showcasing and marketing varieties of distinct and invaluable products which are locally manufactured. Trans Tea Stall: In a bid to empower Transgender, a Trans Tea Stall has been opened at Guwahati Railway Station which is being fully managed by the Transgender community. This initiative by NF Railway is a first of its kind over the Indian Railways. It has been done with the active collaboration of the All Assam Transgender Association. NF Railway is making all efforts to connect all the capitals of the Northeastern states with railways in a time-bound manner. The construction of new railway lines involves multiple tunnels and bridges in tough terrains. Modern technologies are being adopted with the engagement of highly experienced engineers from the country and abroad. Transportation of materials to the work site is also a very difficult and challenging task that is being done with the deployment of heavy and modern machines. The new rail connectivity project when completed will help in the transportation of food grains, automobiles and other infrastructural & construction items to the hilly states at a much cheaper cost than other parts of the country. About the author: Sunil Kumar Jha, an officer of Indian Railway Service of Engineers of 1986 batch, is the General Manager of North Frontier Railway (Construction). He is the overall in-charge of all railway construction activities within the jurisdiction of NFR i.e. all north-eastern states including Sikkim and parts of West Bengal and Bihar. He is a graduate in Civil Engineering from Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University.

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