Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched railway projects worth Rs 8,200 crore in Odisha on Thursday and flagged off the state's first Vande Bharat Express that will connect Puri to West Bengal's Howrah.
Addressing the function through video-conferencing, Modi said new India is building its own technologies and reaching those to the different corners of the country.
"The Vande Bharat Express will further strengthen the religious, cultural and spiritual connection between Howrah and Puri," he said.
Fifteen Vande Bharat trains are operational in the country at present and those are boosting both connectivity and economy, Modi said.
"There was a time when new technologies and facilities used to remain limited to Delhi or the big cities. But now, India has chosen a new path. This new India is making technologies on its own and reaching those to different corners of the country," he said, referring to the indigenously developed semi-highspeed train.
The prime minister said that as the country celebrates the 'Amrit Kaal' of its Independence, it's time to further strengthen its unity.
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"The more India's unity is strengthened, the more its collective capacity will increase," he said.
He also lauded the state for continuing India's developmental streak amid challenges.
"Amidst even the most challenging times, India kept its developmental journey intact. The reason behind this has been the participation of all the states, and India's spirit of walking ahead collectively," he said.
The Puri-Howrah Vande Bharat Express will be the fastest train on the route, covering the 500 km distance in around 6.5 hours, railway officials said.
Modi also laid the foundation stone for the redevelopment of Puri and Cuttack railway stations.
He dedicated to the nation 100 per cent electrification of the railway network in Odisha. This will reduce the operating and maintenance cost and reduce reliance on imported crude oil, officials said.
He also inaugurated the doubling of the Sambalpur-Titlagarh rail line, a new broad gauge rail line between Angul and Sukinda, the third line connecting Manoharpur-Rourkela-Jharsuguda-Jamga and a new broad-gauge line between Bichhupali and Jhartarbha.
These will cater to the increased traffic demands as a result of rapid industrial development in the steel, power and mining sectors in Odisha, and will also help ease the pressure on passenger traffic in these sections, officials said.
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan were present at the programme in Puri station.
A cultural programme was also organised at the Howrah station to mark the flagging off of the Vande Bharat Express, which will be West Bengal's second.
Regular run of the 22895/22896 Howrah-Puri-Howrah Vande Bharat Express will commence from May 20, officials said.
The train, which will run six days a week except Thursdays, will depart Howrah at 6.10 am and reach Puri at 12.35 pm. In the return direction, it will leave Puri at 1.50 pm and arrive at Howrah at 8.30 pm, they said.
The train, with 16 coaches, will stop at Kharagpur, Balasore, Bhadrak, Jajpur Keonjhar Road, Cuttack, Bhubaneswar and Khurda Road.
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