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Lalu remote-launches 2 S-E Rly projects

Mohan Padmanabhan

Bankura (West Bengal) Dec. 31

SOUTH Eastern Railway (SER), primarily a freight railway, got the concluding phase of two of its completed new line projects (total cost of around Rs 364 crore) remote-inaugurated (through a satellite phone) on Thursday by the Union Railway Minister, Mr Lalu Prasad, at Bankura.

One is the Tamluki-Digha link of 88.9 km, which has already received the CRS (Commissioner of Railway Safety) clearance.

The last section is the Kanthi-Digha line, on which a trial engine was rolled on September 1.

The Minister also laid the foundation stone for the Bankura-Chhatna-Mukutmanipur line, besides unveiling the well preserved 1916 BDR (Bengal Damodar River Valley) steam loco, now permanently stationed at Bankura station, reminding visitors of the glorious era of steam in Indian Railways' 150-year history.

The steam loco was in service for over 50 years, from 1935 to 1985.

The Howrah-Digha full service has begun from Shalimar station of SER, across the Vidyasagar Setu (Second Hooghly Bridge) and not from Howrah terminal, as expected. SER sources confirmed that based on the initial response from passengers, who can now go straight to Digha beach in Midnapore district in less than 3 hours from Howrah, a decision will be taken on how soon the services can be shifted to Howrah terminal.

The Mahaendralal Nagar-Amta section of the 73.5 km long Howrah-Amta new line, including Bargachia-Champadanga, constructed at a cost of around Rs 154.3 crore, is now open for traffic from Howrah.

Some of the other projects of SER, taken up to cater to the expanding traffic in the system, are Bankura-Damodar, Rupsa-Baripada gauge conversion, Ranchi-Lohardaga gauge conversion with extension to Tori, the 14-km Panskura-Haldia (Phase-1) doubling and the 5.8 km Tikiapara-Santragachi (Yard) 4th Line work of Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd, being executed by SER's Construction Organisation.

The Minister, earlier in the day, laid the foundation stone for a new project of Eastern Railway, linking both sides of the Bhagirathi river, to benefit the people of Murshidabad, Jiagunj and Azimganj.

The proposed 300-metre long bridge costing Rs 46.70 crore was cleared by the Planning Commission in October this year.

Mr Prasad, while stressing on modernisation and passenger safety as his highest priorities on Railways at Bankura, said railway projects worth Rs 7,840 crore were now in various stages of progress in Bengal.

Mr Prasad, perhaps hinting at things to come, said that it was possible to augment Railways' earnings without resorting to periodic hikes in fare and freight rates.

He informed that by effectively plugging revenue leaks at various points through surprise checks by himself and others, IR has been able to raise earnings by nearly Rs 700 crore during the first seven months of the current financial year.

SER, which covers the four divisions of Adra, Chakradharpur, Kharagpur and Ranchi, for the April-October 2004 period, has generated a surplus of Rs 380.7 crore.

The originating earnings (approx actuals) for the said period have increased to Rs 1,949.85 crore, against the proportionate target of Rs 1,915.80 crore.

In 2003-4, SER recorded earnings of Rs 3,204.56 crore.

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