North Eastern Frontier Railway Spokesman Jayanta Sharma informed that the first pair of trains will start at Lumding in Assam and Agartala in Tripura, the two extreme points of the metre gauge section over the world famous section of NC Hills. Agartala will be the second capital in North East India, after Guwahati, to be linked up by rail. ''Railway tracks and other facilities are ready but because of non availability of VVIPs it was not yet inaugurated,'' Mr Sharma said.
A frustrated Tripura decided not to wait for a Prime Ministerial inauguration and went ahead with the inauguration.
Mr Sharma said the first pair of trains between Lumding and Agartala, numbered 863/864, will run between Silchar and Agartala.
Railway authorities completed laying the tracks between Dhalai and West Tripura districts by July. Work included the construction of a large number of bridges and 18 stations at a cost of Rs 890 crores.
The trial run of the engines and three bogies have taken place up to Agartala station and railway commissioner for safety, who visited the state in July, certified the newly laid line as fit for regular service.
The Tripura government was looking forward to the formal inauguration of the service on August 15 but it was postponed, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was unable to attend.
From July, when the Left parties mounted pressure over the nuclear deal and eventually withdrew their support, to the first week of September, three deadlines to inaugurate the train were missed.
On June 29, the railways held a successful trial run on the newly-built track from Ambassa to Agartala covering 68 km, prompting the CPI(M) to request Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav to commence the passenger service in July itself. The plan didn't materialize and subsequently, CPM leader Basudev Acharia and his comrades in the Tripura government asked for two more sets of dates for the inauguration--he eve of August 15 and then the first week of September.
Mr Acharia had already extracted a promise from Mr Prasad that the train would be named ''Bhasha Shaheed Express'' in the memory of the martyrs of the 'Language Movement', which eventually led to the independence of Bangladesh.
Mr Acharia also persuaded him that the Silchar station be renamed as Bhasha Shaheed station as 11 people died on May 19, 1961 at the Silchar station site, demanding official status for Bengali language.
The Union Home Ministry too, had accepted the proposal and will notify the change of name shortly.
The 5695 Lumding-Agartala Express will leave Lumding at 2010 hours to reach Agartala at 1200 hours next day. The 5696 Agartala-Lumding Express will leave Agartala at 1315 hours to arrive at Lumding at 0655 hours next day. The train will have eight sleeper class coaches, two general second class coaches and two SLRs.
It will have stoppages at Maibong, Lower Halflong, Badarpur, Karimganj, Patharkandi, Churibari, Dharmanagar, Kumarghat, Manu, S K Para, Jawaharnagar, Ambassa, Mungiakami, Telimura, Jirania and Jogendranagar.