Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi has given the people of Abohar and Fazilka a reason to cheer. His announcement in the railway budget speech to run the Ferozepur-Sriganganagar Express train via the two towns will not only put the project -- in limbo till now -- back on track but also fulfil a dream of locals since Independence.
The 28-km route between Abohar and Fazilka was delinked with the biggest railway network in the world for decades. In February 2004, the then railway minister Nitish Kumar laid the project's foundation stone and promised that it would be operational by 2007.
The delay in completion has jacked up the cost estimate to Rs 210 crore from the original Rs 88 crore. Months ago, most work on the project, including building of platforms and new railway stations, was over. Even employees were deployed at the new stations between Fazilka and Abohar. Only the train service wasn't made operational.
Navdeep Asija, secretary general of the graduate welfare association of Fazilka, has welcome Trivedi's announcement. He doesn't want the matter to be left at mere announcement, as had happened last year when then railway minister Mamata Banerjee gave a green signal but the train failed to chug on the tracks.
"The rail link will benefit people along the entire western border of the country, especially the defence forces," said captain (retired) MS Bedi, a landlord of Fazilka. "It will open new avenues for trade and modern trains in the region."
"I'm waiting for the train to make its first journey between Fazilka and Abohar," said Ravi Sethi, a social worker of Abohar. "It'll be a historic day."