Andamans may get its first rail line soon
According to an internal survey report of the rail ministry, the cost of the line will be Rs 2,413.68 crore, with a negative rate of return on investment of -9.64 per cent.
A 240-km broad-gauge railway line connecting Port Blair with Diglipur on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands — a first in the country that will bring the archipelago on the rail map, is being proposed.
The Railway Ministry is set to approve the project, which will connect the Union Territory’s capital city in the south with the largest town on the north Andaman island, currently linked by a 350-km bus service that takes over 14 hours and a ship that takes around 24 hours, The Indian Express reported. There is no air connectivity.
According to an internal survey report of the ministry, the cost of the line will be Rs 2,413.68 crore, with a negative rate of return on investment of -9.64 per cent.
But the ministry is set to approve this project owing to its “uniqueness and strategic importance”, the report said.
Giving a fillip to the rail link, the Union Territory administration has agreed to share 50 per cent of the project’s operational cost — or loss.
“As soon as the line is commissioned, tourism will see a jump from the current 4.5 lakh visitors a year to around 6 lakh a year, as per our estimates. So even though the railway survey shows a negative return, our assessment is otherwise. However, we have agreed to share the operational losses, if any,” Jagdish Mukhi, Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, reportedly said.
The Railways’ Planning wing has suggested that the project may be taken up as part of the strategic lines it will build for Defence ministry, such as those in the border regions of the Northeast. The Finance arm has said that it may be taken up as a national project, like the Kashmir link, in which the general exchequer is billed. The Railway Board will take a final view on this issue soon.