Dibrugarh: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday launched a scathing attack on the Congress, blaming the erstwhile UPA government at the Centre for the delay in the completion of the construction of the Bogibeel Bridge, India’s longest rail-road link over the Brahmaputra river near Dibrugarh in Assam.

Addressing a public gathering after flagging off the first train on the Bogibeel Bridge in Dhemaji, PM Modi said, “Things have changed after May 2014 when topmost priority is being accorded to key projects. Delayed infra projects were adversely impacting India’s development trajectory. When we assumed office, we added speed to these projects and worked towards their quick completion”.

“We have changed the earlier ‘latkane bhatkane’ (dilly-dallying) work culture… Completion of projects within a time frame is no longer confined to paper but has become a truth in the real sense,” he said in a apparent dig at the previous Congress-led UPA government.

The prime minister said that the project would have been completed in 2008-2009 had former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee not lost power in 2004. “If former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had a second term, Bogibeel Bridge would have been ready by 2008-09,” he said.

“About 16 years ago, Atal Ji came here. He had a vision for the development of the Bogibeel Bridge. This Bridge is also a tribute to his vision. When Vajpayee ji’s Government lost power in 2004, several key infrastructure projects of his era were not completed,” he said.

PM Modi also took a veiled dig at the Congress while lauding his government for bringing Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman in the VVIP chopper scam, back to country.

“Four years ago, nobody would have imagined that a man who was involved in a helicopter scam would be brought to India. Our government managed to do it,” he said.

Dedicating the 4.94-km-long double-decker bridge to the nation, PM Modi called it a “historic day for the North-East” and said that it will enhance the connectivity between Assam and other parts of the nation.

“The Bogibeel Bridge is a lifeline for the people of Assam. It has enhanced connectivity between Assam and other parts of the nation. This is country’s longest rail-road bridge. The first rail-road bridge made completely out of steel,” he said.

“The Bogibeel Bridge will help the patients in North East with improved connectivity, and faster transportation,” the prime minister added.

Earlier, PM Modi inaugurated the country’s longest rail-cum-road bridge over the Brahmaputra river at Bogibeel near Dibrugarh in Assam and flagged off the Tinsukia-Naharlagun Intercity Express.

The train will run five days a week. The 4.9-km bridge will cut down the train-travel time between Tinsukia in Assam to Naharlagun town of Arunachal Pradesh by more than 10 hours.

The strategically important bridge, which begins at Dibrugarh and ends at Dhemaji districts of Assam, will remove communication bottlenecks to several districts of Arunachal Pradesh.

The Bogibeel Bridge, which was a part of the Assam Accord and sanctioned in 1997-98, is also likely to play a crucial role in defence movement along the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh.

The foundation stone of the project was laid by former prime minister H D Deve Gowda on January 22, 1997, while work commenced on April 21, 2002, under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government. The Congress-led UPA government had declared it a national project in 2007.

December 25 happens to be Vajpayee’s birth anniversary.

Due to inordinate delay in its implementation, the cost of the project escalated by 85 per cent to Rs 5,960 crore from the sanctioned estimated cost of Rs 3,230.02 crore. The total length of the bridge was also revised to 4.94 km from the earlier 4.31 km.

The bridge is part of the infrastructure projects planned by India to improve logistics along the border in Arunachal Pradesh.

“The bridge will enhance the national security of the eastern region by facilitating swift movement of defence forces and their equipment. It was constructed in such a way that even a fighter jet can land on it in case of emergency,” a source said.

A senior army official had earlier said the biggest advantage of the bridge will be easy movement of troops from southern to northern bank.

“This means travelling to the farthest most point of India’s border with China will be shortened by several hundred kilometers,” he had said.

Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) Chief Public Relations Officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma had also said that the bridge will provide logistical support for the Indian Army manning the border.

The road distance from Dibrugarh to Itanagar will be reduced by 150 km and the railway travel distance between these two points will shorten by 705 km, he had said.

The bridge and the train will be a boon for the people of Dhemaji as major hospitals, medical colleges and airport are in Dibrugarh, the third-largest city in the Northeast.