Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Mar 01, 2004
Defence Ministry to fund gauge conversion in North Bihar
New Delhi , Feb. 29
THE cash-strapped Railways has found an unlikely ally to fund its projects.
The Ministry of Defence will foot the bill for the 93-kilometre Sakri-Jhanjharpur gauge conversion project in North Bihar, the first instance where a rail link will be built with funds meant for the country's defences.
When completed, the new broad-gauge link will serve as an alternative route for the North-Eastern States.
It will pass through the rail-cum-road bridge on the Kosi at Nirmali and connect Darbhanga in Bihar with New Jalpaiguri, the gateway to Assam from West Bengal.
"The project is being funded by the Defence Ministry as it has strategic importance.
The gauge conversion and the mega-bridge will serve as the third route for the North-Eastern States. It will not only aid in the development of North Bihar, but also help Nepal, which has its major transhipment hub at Birganj near Raxaul," the official said.
The Kosi bridge has been taken up as one of the four mega bridges to be constructed under the Rs 15,000-crore Rashtriya Rail Vikas Yojana, a project to upgrade the connectivity between the four metropolitan cities.
In fact, the route was operational till 1936 when the bridge over the Kosi, known as the `Sorrow of Bihar,' was washed away by floods.
The Railways now wants to re-establish the link. The railway lines on both sides of the bridge are metre gauge and require to be upgraded to broad gauge, the official said.
Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL), a special purpose vehicle that is executing the projects under the Yojana, has made a significant departure in the pattern of funding of railway projects in the country.
Earlier, the funds for railway projects were generated through budgetary support by the Government, but RVNL's mandate is to mobilise the entire cost of the Yojana outside the Railway Budget through market borrowings and multilateral funding agencies.
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