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Railway told to increase speed of trains carrying troops to border areas

The Railways has been asked to give high priority to the Army's infrastructure requirements and increase the speed of exclusive trains carrying critical weapons and troops in order to facilitate faster mobilisation to areas bordering China and Pakistan, official sources said. 

They said the Railways has already started work on the specific requirements of the armed forces and even decided to give access of its online train monitoring system to the Army so that it can track the movement of special trains taking weapons and troops to various locations on a real time basis.  

The sources said the Railways has also agreed to a proposal of the Army headquarters to create dedicated facilities in several key stations in the northeast for rapid movement of weapons to various sectors along the the Sino-India border in Arunachal Pradesh.  

The Railways was conveyed about the strategic requirements by the top military brass and it has started working on them. 

 These facilities will come up in Bhalukpung in Arunachal Pradesh, Silapathar and Makum in Assam, and Mokokchung and Dimapur in Nagaland.  

The Railways has also agreed to send its officials to various strategically important areas in the northeast and along the border with Pakistan to understand specific infrastructure requirements of the Army.  

The sources said the speed of the exclusive trains being used by the Army will be enhanced significantly in sync with government's decisions to cut delays in mobilisation of the Army personnel and weapons. Currently the speed of the trains deployed for services to the armed forces run at speeds ranging from 20 to 30 kilometres per hour.  

Following the 73-day long Doklam standoff, the Army has strongly pitched for significantly ramping up transport infrastructure in the northeastern region to cut delays in movement of troops and weapons to sensitive locations along the Line of Actual Control, the de-facto border with China.  

The Army exclusively uses around 750 trains annually for various operational requirements, including transport of battle tanks, artillery guns, infantry combat vehicles and missiles among others, and pays the Railways around Rs 2,000 crore for the services.  

"The Railway network is the most critical component for the Army to mobilise (troops and weapons) for war," a senior Army official, who is aware of the decisions, told PTI.  

The official said the Army uses around 5,000 wagons to transport various goods and weapons and new parking facilities are being created to keep them.  

They said the Railways has agreed to give access of its online train tracking system to the Army so that it can keep track of movement of special trains.  

"It will extremely helpful for us from operational point of view," the official said. 

The sources said the Railways has also indicated to the Army to raise the quota of soldiers in general trains for their travel at short notice.  

The Railways has been carrying out major expansion of its network in the northeastern states including Arunachal Pradesh.  

Troops of India and China were locked in a 73 day-long stand-off in Doklam from June 16 last year after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed area by the Chinese Army.  

The face-off ended on August 28. Sources said China has been keeping its troops in north Doklam and significantly ramping up its infrastructure in the disputed area.  

In January, Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat had said the time had come for India to shift its focus from borders with Pakistan to the frontier with China, indicating that situation along that border was worrying.  

The sources said the Railways will also enhance its infrastructure in the western region.

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