VISITING the state of Gujarat on May 11, India’s Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani inaugurated a 271 km broad-gauge line in Saurashtra region, which is being built as a public-private partnership. Due to be completed next year at a cost of Rs3·7bn, the line from Surendranagar to the new port of Pipavav is being built by Pipavav Railway Corp, a 50:50 joint venture of Indian Railways and the Gujarat Pipavav Port authority. It combines conversion of the former metre-gauge line to Rajula with an 18 km new link into the port. Western Railway had begun test running on the route on January 27.

Accompanied by Railways Minister Nitish Kumar and local officials, Advani signalled a special freight train to depart from the port. The line is being built for freight, but Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi urged IR to introduce passenger services as soon as possible.

Advani also laid a ’foundation stone’ for the 20 km Ghandinagar - Kalol branch, on which work has been underway since 2001. He then inaugurated the offices for IR’s new Ahmedabad Railway Division, and opened a computerised reservations centre at Vastrapur.

On April 16 Kumar had visited Chennai to mark the start of work on a link between the city’s Central and Egmore stations, which is due to open in 2005 at a cost of Rs930m. Intended to carry long-distance trains arriving in the city from the south, the electrified broad-gauge link will be carried on viaduct throughout, flying over the metre-gauge suburban line from Tambaram to Chennai Beach to reach two high-level platforms at Central.