In a major boost to economic activity and people-to-people contact in the region, another railway link between India and Bangladesh was opened on December 17, 2020. Defunct since the India-Pakistan war of 1965, the rail link between Haldibari in India and Chilahati in Bangladesh was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina taking the number of operational rail links between the two countries to five.
At present, there are four rail links that are operational between India and Bangladesh Petrapole – Benapole (train no. 13129/30 Bandhan Express), Gede – Darshana (train no. 13109/10 Maitree Express), Singhabad – Rohanpur (freight train), Radhikapur – Birol (freight train). The newly inaugurated Haldibari – Chilahati rail link is the fifth rail link between the two countries. Passenger trains will soon be launched on this route. With this new link coming into operation, tourists from Bangladesh will be able to visit places like Darjeeling, Sikkim, Dooars, apart from countries like Nepal and Bhutan with ease. Economic activities of these South Asian countries will also be benefitted from this new rail link.
Also read: Border Crossing Trains
The newly opened railway route between Haldibari and Chilahati will be beneficial for transit into the neighbouring country. This rail link will enhance the accessibility of the railway network to the dry ports, main ports, land borders to support the growth in regional trade as well as to encourage the region’s economic and social development. Once passenger trains are planned in this route, the public of both countries will be able to reap the benefit of both passenger and goods traffic.
The railway network of India and Bangladesh are mostly inherited from British Era Indian Railways. The rail link between Haldibari and Chilahati which was part of the Broad Gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri during partition was operational till 1965. Even after partition, trains travelling to the northeastern state of Assam and North Bengal continued to travel through the then East Pakistan territory. However during the war in 1965, the railway links between India and the then East Pakistan were effectively cut off.
In May 2015, the Railway Board sanctioned for construction of a new Broad Gauge line from Haldibari railway station to Bangladesh Border for connection with Chilahati covering a length of 3.50 km in 2016-17 to reopen this rail link. The national transporter at a cost of Rs 82.72 crores has restored the railway tracks up to the international border from Haldibari railway station. Accordingly upgradation works and laying of missing tracks were undertaken by Bangladesh Railways on their side from Chilahati railway station to the international border.
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