India is set to complete work on reviving a long-unused railway link between Haldibari in the state of West Bengal to Chilahati in Bangladesh by December this year.
The work of laying single-line tracks on the Indian side, from Haldibari of the Jalpaiguri district, is nearing completion, Outlook India reported quoting a North East Frontier Railway official on October 5.
The railway line from Haldibari to Chilahati has remained out of operation since 1965, with the snapping of rail links between India and erstwhile East Pakistan.
"On our side, the tracks are ready, and other work such as the construction of buildings and other ancillary things will be done by December," the North East Frontier Railway official told Outlook India.
On our side, the tracks are ready, and other work such as the construction of buildings and other ancillary things will be done by December
Chilahati is a border railway station situated in the Nilphamari district.
Commenting on the matter, Md Abdur Rahim – who serves as the project director for Construction of Broad Gauge Railway between Chilahati and Chilahati Border for establishing rail link with India – said the line is ready for train operations.
Providing more details, he told The Business Standard, "In our portion, the 7km long line is ready. If the top levels of both governments decide, trains can be operated on this route from December this year.
"We also decided to build an international standard station building here. It may take another year and a half. But at present, we can run train operations with the existing station. We are also working on extending some loop lines here."
We also decided to build an international standard station building here. It may take another year and a half. But at present, we can run train operations with the existing station
India and Bangladesh's leaders have stressed the need for reviving pre-1965 rail links between the two neighbouring countries, and some are already functional.
According to Bangladesh Railway sources, two rail connectivity projects between India and Bangladesh are presently underway, which are India's Agartala to Bangladesh's Akhaura, and India's Haldibari to Bangladesh's Chilahati.
Besides these projects, the neighbouring countries have four operational rail links connecting the two sides, all of which originate in West Bengal. Those are the Petrapole-Benapole, Gede-Darshana, Singhabad-Rohanpur and Radhikapur-Birol railway links.
The reopening of the Chilahati-Haldibari line will allow freight and passenger services to operate from Bangladesh via Siliguri to Darjeeling in India. This will provide a route from India's landlocked north-eastern states and two Himalayan countries of Bhutan and Nepal to the Mongla port in Bangladesh.
There are two passenger trains between both countries – Bandhan Express from Kolkata to Khulna and Maitree Express from Kolkata to Dhaka.
The first rail link between India and Bangladesh was opened in 2008. The first train was the Maitree Express, while the Bandhan Express was launched in 2017.
In September 2019, the governments of India and Bangladesh jointly laid the foundation stone for upgradation of missing tracks on the Haldibari-Chilahati track, which was a part of the broad-gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri during British rule.