150 years of Bombay – Calcutta connection: Bagra Tawa today

[This is Part III in a series on the region where the Bombay Calcutta rail connection was first completed 150 years ago. You can read Part I on the inauguration by the Duke of Edinburgh here and Part II on the Alfred Viaduct here]

Today, the eight km Sontalai – Bagra Tawa railway line is under process of being doubled. The single line section is already electrified.

Doubling works began in March 2016. Forest clearances were obtained by July 2017 and work started soon after.

Work on the new alignment and the bridge is well underway, as seen on latest satellite imagery available on Google Earth

The second line will follow a different alignment as shown by the red line in patch doubling plan below. The line will have no tunnel as it will skirt the hillside from the northern side.

Thankfully, this will keep the atmosphere around the Alfred Viaduct unaffected by works related to doubling.

Doubling of the line entails the acquisition of 13.32 hectares of forest land. Of the budgeted capital allocation of Rs 10 crore, Rs 3.31 crore has already been spent until FY18. Extra-budgetary resources from financial institutions to the tune Rs 96.43 crore form the bulk of financing this patch doubling project. Of this, only Rs 4.43 crore has been spent by FY18. The revised budget outlay for FY19 is Rs 45 crore and the proposed outlay for FY20 is Rs 20 crore.

Also being done is the regirdering and jacketing of old Tawa bridge under the safety fund (RRSK) at a sanctioned cost of Rs 31.16 crore. Of this Rs. 1.25 crore has been spent by FY18 and the proposed outlay for FY20 is Rs 1 crore.

Memories of the old bridge

After the line is doubled, traffic on the old bridge will become unidirectional, with trains coming from Jabalpur towards Itarsi using the old alignment.

The whole area, lush green forest, a Bheel baba temple inside the tunnel which is curved, a dargah on top of the tunnel, colonies of monkeys, the ubiquitous trackmen in their orange shirts is a sight to behold.

Yours truly last visited the Tawa bridge on September 13, 2014 just after the monsoon and the greenery around had to be seen to be believed.

The serenity of the river and forest backdrop was broken only by the sounds of birds chirping, monkeys chattering and the sweet sound of a diesel engine horn followed by the train thundering over the Tawa. It was, to quote a cliché; nature at its best.

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About the Author: Raghavendra Rao

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