Bhubaneswar: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday inaugurated a series of rail projects in Odisha including a new line in Khurda district and said the country will progress if ports and mines of the state are connected with railway lines.
Prabhu opened a new railway line between Khurda Road and Begunia, a 32-kilometre stretch of the 289-km Khurda-Balangir track at Begunia in Khurda district of Odisha.
Prabhu along with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik also flagged off the first passenger train on the new line which chugged on from Begunia to Khurda Road.
The railway minister also inaugurated new railway station buildings at Begunia and Khurda town as well as the second entry and passenger facilities at Berhampur.
Prabhu said that Rs 195 crore had been sanctioned for Khurda-Balangir line and efforts were being made to complete work up to Rajsunakhala beyond Begunia by September.
Describing rail infrastructure as the key to development, he said steps were being taken to start work for different other projects like Haridaspur-Paradip and Telcher-Bimlagarh lines.
Establishment of a skill development centre in the state was also on the card, Prabhu said.
The work for Khurda-Balangir route, survey for which was done before Independence in 1945, however, started in 2007. While work on the 112-km stretch from Begunia to Daspalla in Nayagarh district was going on, plans were made to begin work from Balangir side. The Khurda-Balangir route would link coastal Odisha with the western region of the state.
"India will develop if the rail lines in Odisha are improved. This is because Odisha is rich with minerals. If we can provide rail line to ports and mines in Odisha, the country can gain a lot," Prabhu said while addressing a function held on the occasion.
Prabhu also admitted that there was negligence towards Odisha in the past and several districts in the state were yet to get a rail line.
Speaking at the function, the chief minister urged the railway minister to complete the Khurda-Balangir project in stipulated time.
Patnaik said the state would sign MoU with Railway Ministry to provide Rs 1,355 crore for the project out of which Rs 355 crore would be towards land acquisition cost. The Centre would provide the rest Rs 1,000 crore for the project as its share.
Patnaik also demanded extension of railways to districts like Deogarh and Kendrapara, Nayagarh, Malkangiri, Boudh and Kandhamal which have no presence on the rail map.
Union Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who hailed from the state, also urged Prabhu to expedite railway projects in Odisha.