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Andaman to get train line

DELHI: A 240 km broad-gauge railway line connecting two major islands, with bridges and stations along the coast, will be part of an ambitious rail link connecting Port Blair with Diglipur on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands — a first in the country that will bring the archipelago on the rail map.

The Railway Ministry is set to approve the project, which will connect the Union Territory’s capital city in the south with the largest town on the north Andaman island currently linked by a 350-km bus service that takes over 14 hours and a ship that takes around 24 hours, reports The Indian Express.

There is no air connectivity.

According to an internal survey report of the ministry, the cost of the line will be Rs 2,413.68 crore with a negative rate of return on investment of -9.64 per cent.

The Railways considers a line to be commercially viable if this figure is at least a positive of 12 per cent.

But the ministry is set to approve this project owing to its “uniqueness and strategic importance”, according to documents reviewed by The Indian Express.

The ministry’s Planning and Finance directorates cleared the project last week saying it is desirable because “it is unique, away from the mainland, and has tourism potential.”

Giving a fillip to the rail link, the Union Territory administration has agreed to share 50 per cent of the project’s operational cost — or loss.

“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,” Jagdish Mukhi, Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, told The Indian Express.

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