Khurda-Bolangir project: Hopes soar again ahead of rail budget

Bhubaneswar: Surveyed in 1945, approved in 1993 and still incomplete in 2016 – the timeline for the Khurda-Bolangir Rail project has been inordinately protracted. On the eve of the Rail Budget every year, hopes germinate only to wilt under the unforgiving sun of indifference. As the countdown for this year’s Rail Budget begins, five districts of Odisha are once again hoping that the project will get a much needed shot in the arm this time.

It was indeed a noteworthy milestone when in June 2015, train services were launched on the 32-km stretch between Khurda and Begunia, part of the 289-km Khurda-Bolangir rail project. The stretch till Rajsunakhala was completed in October the same year and trains were flagged off.

“It is a very important rail corridor for Odisha. In the past years, only token amounts have been allocated for the project and it has been completely ignored. In the upcoming budget, we want that sufficient funds are allocated so that the project gets completed,” demanded Khurda resident, Shakti Shankar Mishra.

“Of late, the project work has gathered pace and there is a target to commission the section till Bolgarh by June 2016. Similarly, the section from Bolgarh to Nayagarh is expected to be completed by March 2017,” said senior divisional manager of Khurda Pradeep Kumar Mohanty.

Work has also started from the Bolangir side. Land acquisition for the 19-km stretch between Puintala and Bhainsapalli is complete and Rs 40 cr has been allocated for it. Though the people of Bolangir are happy that the work has finally started, they have demanded more funds to be allocated in the current Railway Budget.

“Our only demand is to expedite the project, which has been going on at snail’s pace. We just wish to see a train to chug along the route,” said Bikramananda Bahidar, the chairman of the Bolangir rail customers’ association.

Notably, survey work for the Khurda-Bolangir Rail project was done in the year 1945. The project had a budget of Rs 1,100 crores. The project is expected to benefit five districts – Nayagarh, Khurda, Boudh, Sonepur and Bolangir. In the meantime, the cost of the project has escalated two-fold.