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Haldibari-Chilahati

India, Bangladesh reopen cross-border rail link after 56 yrs

  • Diplomatic Correspondent
  • 2 August, 2021 12:00 AM
  • Print news

In a significant step to boost railway connectivity between India and Bangladesh, the first goods train carrying stone chips reached Bangladesh on Sunday through the revived Haldibari-Chilahati rail link.

With this, the commercial services on the railway link between India and Bangladesh, which remained inoperative since 1965, have started.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi jointly inaugurated the railway link between Haldibari in India and Chilahati in Bangladesh during the India-Bangladesh virtual bilateral Summit on December 17 last year but the rail route could not be operational due to Covid-19 pandemic.

The leadership of both India and Bangladesh is committed to reviving all the pre-1965 railway links between the two countries.

After the partition in 1947, 7 rail links were operational between India and the then East Pakistan up to 1965.

The Haldibari – Chilahati rail link is the 5th rail link between India and Bangladesh being made operational from August 1, 2021. The restoration work was undertaken by the railways of both the countries to revive this rail link.

“From rail and air to road connectivity, senior officials said Dhaka and New Delhi have continued to open the doors for easier movement of people and cargo between Bangladesh and India.”

Diplomatic sources said opening of another rail route between India and Bangladesh will usher a new era of connectivity and the Haldibari-Chilahati route will ensure less time for transit of goods to Bangladesh from Assam, West Bengal, Nepal and Bhutan.

They said the commodities that can be exported from India to Bangladesh through the Haldibari-Chilahati rail route include stones and boulders, food grain, fresh fruits, chemical fertiliser, onion, chillies, garlic, ginger, fly ash, clay, lime stone, wood & timber etc.

From Bangladesh to India, all exportable commodities are permitted, said the High Commission of India (HCI).

“This rail link coming into operation will strengthen India-Bangladesh Rail Connectivity and bilateral trade. It will also enhance rail network accessibility to the main ports and dry ports to support the growth in regional trade and to encourage economic and social development of the region,” reads a statement of the HCI.

The Haldibari (West Bengal)-Chilahati (Bangladesh) rail link between India and the then East Pakistan had been operational till 1965 when the India-Pakistan war snapped it.

This was part of the broad-gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri during the partition. Trains travelling to Assam and North Bengal continued to travel through the then East Pakistan territory even after partition.

According to the railway officials, the first goods train carrying stone chips departed from Damdim station of Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal on Sunday morning and reached at Chilahati station in Nilphamari district in the afternoon.

India and Bangladesh have started regular operation of freight trains through the Haldibari-Chilahati Rail Route from August 1.

Indian Railways dispatched the first freight train loaded with stones from Damdim Station of Northeast Frontier Railway to Bangladesh on Sunday.

Prior to Haldibari-Chilahati route, there were 4 operational rail links between India and Bangladesh. They are - Petrapole (India) – Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India) – Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India)-Rohanpur (Bangladesh), Radhikapur (India) – Birol (Bangladesh).

The Haldibari-Chilahati rail link is one such route which was operational till 1965.

Haldibari-Chilahati Rail Link - Connectivity benefits:

*    The Haldibari-Chilahati route will provide transit connection to Bangladesh from Assam and West Bengal in India.

*    It will strengthen the rail network access to the main ports, dry ports, as well as land borders to support the growth in regional trade, boosting the economic and social development of the region.

*    Businessmen and common people of both countries will be able to reap the benefits of both goods and passenger train services, once all trains are planned for operations on the route.

*    With the new railway line, people from Bangladesh will be able to visit tourist attractions such as Darjeeling, Sikkim, Dooars in India.