A discussion is on between the Indian and Bangladesh governments to start a passenger train service between Kolkata and Khulna apart from the existing Kolkata-Dhaka Maitree Express which is running successfully.
It might add another feather in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policies for Bangladesh, described a senior official of the ministry of Railways. He was talking about the proposal for a new pair of trains between India and Bangladesh across the Petrapole-Benapole border on the lines of Maitree Express that runs thrice a week. With the launch of the cross-border radio service, Akashvani Maitree– today by Pranab Mukherjee, President of India, Modi government has taken a step further to st rengthen the ties between India-Bangladesh. Both the governments have decided to run a new pair of passenger trains between Kolkata and Khulna (Bangladesh) and the services is expected to start early 2017.
The issue was discussed in the Inter Government Railway Meeting (IGRM) held in Dhaka last week. Apart from running a second passenger train; two major decisions were taken in the meeting. The existing passenger train, Maitree Express will run four times a week and will be converted into a full AC coach at the same fare, said a senior official of the Rail ministry. There has also been an agreement signed on introducing a container rail service. There has also been an agreement signed on introducing a container rail service. Modeling on the Container Corporation of India BSE 0.77 %, a new agency called Container Company of Bangladesh will be set up to run the container service and it would ease the container traffic on India-Bangladesh road transport.
Talks are also going on to increase the frequency of the service owing to its popularity among travellers between the two countries, sources said. Regular passenger train services existed between Sealdah station and Khulna and Jessore through the Petrapole route before 1947 and creation of East Pakistan, which became independent Bangladesh in 1971. Since 1947, passenger train service on this route has remained closed. Goods train service between the two countries through Petrapole border was relaunched in January, 2001, in the presence of then railway minister Mamata Banerjee.
“Both the governments have in principle agreed to run the new train. It has been emanated from the joint statement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina. It was discussed during PM Modi’s last visit to Bangladesh. We are trying to build the passenger amenities centre and the customs and immigration establishment in Petra pole and Bena pole soon,”Dibbanjan Roy, Railway Advisor in Indian High Commission in Dhaka told ET over from Dhaka.
To discuss the issue and to have a feasibility study, a high level meeting has been held at the Petrapole- Benapole border recently a couple of days back. Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka was present in the meeting.
Prime Minister Modi’s efforts to improve the relation with Bangladesh government includes the execution of the Enclave exchange protocol in 2015, launching the Kolkata-Agartala bus service via Dhaka followed by the cross border radio service.
After almost eight years of the first run of Maitree Express, flagged off by then External Affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, the government of India contemplates a second passenger train between the two countries through a different route. As a security measure, a “box-fencing” system was built on either side on the no-man’s land. Maitree express runs through Gede (Nadia border in India)-Darshana (Bangladesh) route and takes more than 15 hours to complete the run.
Two pairs of freight trains run through Petrapole (India)- Benapole (Bangladesh) and Singhabad (India) and Rohanpur (Bangladesh) sectors. While contacted R N Mahapatra, CPRO, Eastern Railway said, “It is in discussion stage now. The final call will be taken by the ministry of Railways .”
The BSF would submit a report on the security issues if the rail ministry seeks one, added a senior official. At least a platoon (30 jawans) is deployed when Maitree express passes through the box fencing across the zero line. Apart from that, the intelligence branch needs to keep a vigil on both the cross-border passenger and freight trains.
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