- In 1947, railway activities through Benapole came to a stop
- In 2000, imports from India through Benapole railway link commenced using the old infrastructure
- At the beginning of last year, imports through Benapole railway restarted amid growing demand from traders
- Export-import trade through railways is conducted through Benapole port only
Bangladesh Railway has started infrastructural development this month as import through railways has increased during the ongoing corona pandemic.
As part of the initiative, renovation of the existing railways and installation of a double rail line from Benapole railway station to Petrapole Port of India is underway at a cost of Tk4 crore.
Although imports through railways have increased significantly, the narrow and dilapidated railways constructed long ago, during the British period, were severely hampering import activities.
Traders said the development of the railway infrastructure, as well as the establishment of a container terminal, will increase import trade with India manifold, besides reducing the risk of corona infection.
They hoped that once the infrastructural development work is completed, not only will import trade increase manifold but new opportunities to export domestic products to India will also be created.
According to sources in Bangladesh Railway, import and export trade with India is carried out through 12 land ports of Bangladesh through railways and highways. However, as the communication system is comfortable, both export-import trade and travel of passengers with passports are conducted through Benapole port only.
As a result, this port is more important than other ports. Although some infrastructure was developed for import through roads, the condition of the railways constructed during the British period was dilapidated. After the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, railway activities came to a stop.
Later in 2000, imports from India through the Benapole railway link commenced through using the old infrastructure. However, so far trade has been limited to imports of fly ash and gypsum products only. At the beginning of last year, India stopped import and export trade by road through Benapole port for three months to contain corona infection, causing severe economic losses to traders and depriving the government of a huge amount of revenue. Later, imports through railway restarted following increasing demands by the traders, said sources at Benapole port.
But, they continued, due to the dilapidated condition of the railways, import of goods was being hampered. If a cargo train entered the port from India, another could not enter due to lack of space. In this situation, the Railway Department undertook an initiative for the infrastructural development of the railways.
Traders Shahinur Rahman and Sohag Hossain said locals are happy with the renovation of the railways. However, rail crossings need to be constructed at places where the trains cross important roads.
Benapole C&F Association President Mofizur Rahman Sajan said that Benapole port is the most important port in the country after Chattogram port. Within a short time, Padma Bridge is going to be inaugurated. Export-import trade with India will increase manifold once the construction of the container terminal at Benapole port is completed.
Benapole Port Deputy Director (traffic) Mamun Kabir Tarafdar said that considering the current pandemic situation, import through railways is not only safe but affordable also. The government has plans to start exporting by rail once the development work is completed.
Aminul Haque, vice-president of the Benapole Port Import-Export Association, said for a long time, traders were held hostage by the Kalitala truck parking syndicate in Petrapole. Since imports through the railways started, they have been released from the hostage situation.
He said trade will surely expand further once the infrastructural development work is completed.
Jashore Railway Department Assistant Engineer Oliul Haque said work is underway to renovate the old two-km long broad gauge railway line from Benapole railway station to Petrapole port and to build two additional railway lines on both sides of Benapole port for freight cargo trains. These development works will be completed within the next three months.
Benapole Rail Station Master Saidur Rahman said the government has taken steps to reform the dilapidated railway as trade activities were being hampered. Construction of rail crossings has been requested at places where the movement of vehicles and the safety of the locals are at risk.
He said 43,006 metric tonnes of various goods were imported from India by rail through Benapole port in May. At the time, excluding the duty on imported goods, the government received Tk2,26,74,000 revenue from railway fares only.