Why is more India-Bangladesh rail connectivity urgent for increasing regional communication? By Nandita Roy

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Aiming to increase regional communication, rail connectivity is being done on 10 border routes of Bangladesh-India. Among them, trains are currently running on 5 border routes Darshana-Gede, Benapole-Petrapole, Rohanpur-Singabad, Birol-Radhikapur and Chilahati-Haldibari. Apart from this, plans have been taken to renovate these 3 railways Shahbazpur-Mahisasan, Burimari-Changrabanda and Mogulhat-Gitaldah. Akhaura-Agartala and Feni-Bilonia 2 new railways are being constructed. If these railways are opened, regional connectivity will increase. Apart from this, goods and passenger rail connectivity between India, Nepal, Bhutan will also increase, railway sources said.

On September 10, 2017, the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and India inaugurated the construction of the Akhaura-Agartala railway line funded by India. As a result, Bangladesh will join the international Trans-Asian Railway along with the increase of rail communication between Bangladesh and India.

In this regard, the Minister of Railways. Nurul Islam Sujan told Janakantha that railways were running between Bangladesh and India since the British period. But during the Pakistan-India war of 1965, these railways were closed. By renovating this closed railway line, an initiative has been taken to re-establish rail connectivity between Bangladesh and India. Apart from this, this railway will be used to connect the international railway Trans Asia Railway. Apart from this, 2 new railways Akhaura-Agartala and Feni-Bilonia are being constructed. As a result of this, besides the passenger transport by railway between the two countries, export-import of goods will increase, he said.

It is known that during the British rule, passenger and cargo trains used to run directly to different parts of Bangladesh and India through 8 places. These are Darshana in Bangladesh and Gede in India, Benapole in Bangladesh to Petrapol in India, Singabad in India from Rohanpur in Bangladesh, Radhikapur in India from Birol in Bangladesh, Mohisasan in India from Shahbazpur in Bangladesh, Haldibari in Bangladesh from Chilahati, Changrabanda in Bangladesh from Burimari and Changrabanda in Bangladesh from Mogulhat in Bangladesh. There was a railway. Most of these railways were closed during the Pakistan-India war of 1965. Some were closed during and after the Liberation War of 1971. Of these, five railways have been opened, but three railways are still closed, railway officials said.

Darshana-gede Passenger and goods trains are currently plying from Darshana in Bangladesh to Gede in India through a 3 km railway line. During the Indo-Pakistani war in 1965, train service on this route was stopped. After the war of independence in 1971, the railway was started in Purana with freight trains. Dhaka-Kolkata passenger Maitri Express train is running on this railway since April 14, 2008. This rail line belongs to Trans Asian Railway.

Benapole-Petrapole This 1.8 km long railway from Benapole in Bangladesh to Petrapole in India is an operating interchange point of the Bangladesh and Indian Railways. This point was abandoned since 1965. After this, in 2002, freight trains were resumed. On November 16, 2017, a passenger train called Bandhan Express started running on this railway on Khulna-Benapole-Kolkata route. This railway line will be connected to the international Trans-Asian railway with rail connectivity between Bangladesh and India.

Rohanpur-Singabad This railway is 10 km long from Bangladesh's northern border Rohanpur to India's Singhabad. Nepal border stations Raxaul and Jagbani are connected with Birganj and Biratnagar stations respectively. Regular freight trains are running on this line since 1990. It will also be connected to the Trans Asian Railway.

Rare-Radhikapur. This 11 km long border railway from Birol in Bangladesh to Badhikapur in India was used for transit operations with Nepal till 2005. But it was closed in 2005 when part of India's railways was converted to broad gauge. The railway from Parvatipur-Biral-Biral border in Bangladesh part was converted into dual gauge and launched from April 8, 2017. As a result of the opening of this railway, after 12 years, freight train movement between Bangladesh and India started.

Chilahati-Haldibari This 7.5 km long border railway from Chilahati in Bangladesh to Haldibari in India was closed in 1965. Later, the railway was upgraded to broad gauge and officially launched by the Prime Ministers of the two countries on December 17, 2020. The freight train started running on August 1, 2021. After this, on June 1, 2022, the third international train 'Mithali Express' was launched on this route from Dhaka, Bangladesh to New Jalpaiguri, India. The railway can be extended to Hasimara station on the border with Bhutan.

Shahbazpur-Mahisasan: The 11 km border railway from Shahbazpur in Sylhet, Bangladesh to Mahisasan in India was closed on July 7, 2002. Goods trains used to run through this railway. It is also part of the Trans Asian Railway Network. Construction of dual gauge railway has started up to Kulaura-Shahbajpur border. The project is being implemented under the Indian Line of Credit (LoC). Under this project, 51 km railway track from Kulaura in Moulvibazar to Shahbazpur is being reconstructed.

On September 10, 2018, the Prime Ministers of the two countries inaugurated the construction of this railway through a video conference. Railway sources said that if the railway is converted into dual gauge and extended by 9 km to India's Karimganj, Bangladesh will be able to connect with the regional and trans-Asian railway network in the future.

Old lady-Chengrabandha The 3 km long border railway from Burimari in Bangladesh to Changrabandha in India has been closed since 1971. This could be a possible railway for transit operations with Bhutan. This railway can be connected in both directions. Among these, the conversion of meter gauge railway to dual gauge from Parvatipur to Burimari via Kaunia and Lalmonirhat in Bangladesh or the conversion of meter gauge railway from Santahar in Bogra to Lalmonirhat to Burimari to dual gauge, construction of new broad gauge railway line from Burimari station to Changrabandha in India has been accepted. As a result, the transportation of goods between Bangladesh-India Bhutan will be easier according to railway sources.

Mogulhat-Gitaldah The nearly three-kilometer railway line from Mogulhat in Lalmonirhat, Bangladesh to Gitaldah in Cooch Behar district, West Bengal, India was closed in 1965 after the India-Pakistan war. After independence, two freight trains were running, but both sides of the railway line were damaged in the severe floods of 1998. Then this path is closed. The reopening of the railway will facilitate the transportation of goods through this route for traders from a large part of Bhutan and Assam. Railway sources said that passenger transport will also be possible later.

Akhaura-Agartala route A new 15 km long railway line is being constructed from Akhaura in Bangladesh to Agartala in India. To start this new interchange line, a 10 km railway track is being constructed on the Bangladesh side and 5 km on the Indian side from Gangasagar station in Bangladesh to the Indian border. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh and India jointly inaugurated the construction of this railway on September 10, 2018 through a video conference. 90 percent of the existing railway has been completed. Railway officials said that the railway will be launched by the end of this year.

Feni-Bilonia Plans have been taken up to rebuild the 30 km railway line from Feni in Bangladesh to Bilonia in India. This railway line will be used to connect the Indian states of Tripura, Assam and Meghalaya. According to the agreement with the government of Bangladesh, the government of India will bear all the expenses for the renovation of this railway line. Assam Bengal Railway Company started this railway in 1929 to establish communication with Assam. Initially, freight trains ran on this line, but the railway was closed after 1947.

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