Later this month, the capital of Tripura will become the second state capital in the northeast after Guwahati to find a place on the country's railway map.
"The first ever train service to Agartala is all set to begin June 30 as the Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR) is working on war-footing to meet the deadline," NFR chief engineer FS Meena told IANS.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh had earlier declared the railway project in Tripura a national project.
"It took more than four decades to connect the capital city after northern Tripura's business hub Dharmanagar, 200 km from here, came under the railway map in 1964," said Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey.
"The NFR has so far spent Rs.8 billion to connect Agartala by rail by making three big tunnels through the Longtharai valley, Baramura and Atharamura hills in Dhalai and west Tripura districts," said Meena.
The 1,962-metre Longtharai tunnel is the longest railway tunnel in eastern India.
According to B. Chowdhury, a railway engineer, the NFR would also start work to lay a new track in the 110 km Agartala-Sabroom line by January next year after completing the final location survey.
Approximately 1,200 acres of land would be required for the Rs.8.13 billion project to connect Tripura's southernmost border town Sabroom by rail.
Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said: "After the Indian Railways extends its line up to Sabroom, it would be very easy to connect with the Chittagong international port in southeast Bangladesh, which is just 75 km from there."
A small bridge over river Feni can connect Sabroom and Khagrachari, across the border in Bangladesh, to open a second railway link between the two neighbours after the Kolkata-Dhaka rail service, which resumed April 14 this year after a gap of 43 years.
"After extending the railway line to Sabroom, Tripura and the entire northeast would be linked with Southeast Asia very easily," the chief minister told IANS.
"The Left parties led by Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) had spearheaded a series of movements since the early 1960s to extend the railway line up to the state capital. In 1985, we have organised a march to Delhi demanding extension of railway line in this northeastern state," he added.
India's railway budget for 2008-09 announced plans to extend the railway line to Tripura's southernmost sub-divisional town Sabroom.
"The Bangladesh government is actively considering New Delhi's proposal to allow India to use Chittagong international port for easy communication between rest of India and northeastern states and Southeast Asian countries," Sudhakar Dalela, councillor (trade and commerce) of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, said here recently.
Meanwhile, the NFR has already conducted a survey to connect Agartala with Akhaurah railway station in Bangladesh.
The distance between the newly constructed Agartala railway station and Akhaurah railway station, an important rail junction in Bangladesh, is just five kilometres.