Andman and Nicobar Islands have been a favourite destination among travelers especially honeymooners for their pristine beauty, calm seas and natural bounty. If you too have dreams of enjoying a vacation in the much-loved islands then here is one big good news for you. The Railways is planning a train in Andman and Nicobar for the first time ever!
While you might have already started visualizing the scenic beauty welcoming you as you gaze through the window, here is everything that you need to know about the soon-to-start rail route.
What is it?
Connecting Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the 240-km railway line will have bridges and stations along the coast. This will connect Port Blair with Diglipur becoming the first rail line in the country to get the archipelago on the rail map.
Currently Port Blair and Diglipur are linked by a 350-km bus service that takes over 14 hours and a ship that takes around 24 hours. There is no air connectivity.
Cost of the project
The rail line will be built with Rs 2,413.68 crore with a negative rate of return on investment of -9.64 per cent. Though a rail line is considered commercially viable if it is at least a positive of 12 per cent yet Railways has approved the plan due to its “uniqueness and strategic importance”, as per documents reviewed by The Indian Express.
Planning and Finance directorates of Railways said that the project “is unique, away from the mainland, and has tourism potential.”
Boon for tourism
Quite naturally, the rail line is expected to promote the tourism of the islands as it will increase the inflow of tourists.
“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,” Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Jagdish Mukhi told The Indian Express.
The Ross and Smith islands are the major tourist attractions in Diglipur. “These are just two of the main attractions. Lakhs of tourists take great pains to reach there from Port Blair every year. With the railway line in place, that part essentially become a part of the capital, beneficial to tourists, local residents and the defence forces,” said Mukhi.
Significance for defence forces
The UT administration too pitched for the tourism potential of the rail line claiming it is of “immense strategic value” to the defence forces as Diglipur is only 300 km by sea from the southern coast of Myanmar. The new train line from Port Blair to Diglipur will cover the distance in just three hours.
As per the Railways’ Planning wing, the project can help build the strategic lines for Defence ministry like those in the border regions of the Northeast. In fact, the Finance arm can be taken up as a national project much like the famous Kashmir link.
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