Nima Wangdi

The survey has been completed to start the construction of a railway connection between Gelephu and Kokrajar in Assam, India.

The railway is expected to be completed by 2026. This will be the first-ever railway connection between the two countries.

The Indian government will fund the 57-kilometer railway.

Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said: “We have formed a team that will talk to the Northeastern Frontier (NF) Railways in India and start the work.”

The government, he said, would first work on this project and then look into connecting other places like Samtse, Phuentsholing, Nganglam, and Samdrupjongkhar.

In 2008, the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced during his visit to Bhutan, the construction of the Nehru Golden Jubilee Railway link to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic visit to Bhutan in 1958.

The 18-kilometre railway was supposed to link Toribari in Phuentsholing in Bhutan and Hashimara in West Bengal, India.

Lyonpo Dr Tandi said that the project could take off since the railway had to be built through tea states. “There was an objection from the government of West Bengal.”

WB’s Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, visited Bhutan in 2015 and said the situation should be reviewed, as the proposed area falls in the air base area.

She said that peope cannot be forced to accept land acquisition.

In 2013, Hindustan Times reported India’s train to Bhutan was marred by bureaucratic hurdles and procedural delays. “With little focus being given in the railway budgets on cross-border rail links, the fate of the ‘Golden Jubilee Railway Link’ continues to hang in the balance.”