Focus on Rail links ahead of PM’s visit to Bangladesh

New Delhi: Narendra Modi during his visit to Dhaka is likely to discuss new bus and train routes as already the Bengal government has cleared two new routes from Kolkata and are awaiting the sanction of Centre – Kolkata to Chittagong and Kolkata to Shillong via Bangladesh.Modi will be flagging off the Kolkata-Agartala bus route at Dhaka on June 7, which will be rolling out of Kolkata on June 5. Even Modi government is considering a new rail route Khulna to Kolkata and for that already a meeting was held in March. For that the Prime Ministers of the two countries might be discussing about using the rail tracks in Bangladesh.A senior official said that the Khulna-Kolkata rail link can be easily launched soon, but the home ministry is concerned with the security aspect and for that the Centre is delaying in giving clearance to this route, which is of high demand. The Centre is also considering if a rail link to Agartala can be done via Dhaka, as already the Maitree express runs on six days between Kolkata and Dhaka and extending it to Agartala is on the cards. Bangladesh officials are planning to connect the line from Dhaka to Akhaura through broad gauge and then on the Indian side from Akhaura to Agartala can be easily connected. At present the line between Dhaka to Akhaura is on metre gauge, so a change of tracks is needed in this section.

The new bus route from Kolkata to Agartala will take around 18 hours including the customs and immigration checks. The officials are also likely to discuss how the checking time can be reduced, as it causes major inconvenience to the passengers.

An official said that the trains on a regular basis carry around 400 passengers. Both the governments are considering to increase people to people contact and for that the rail and road links are going to increase, particularly after the land boundary agreement going to be a reality. For that the transport officials of Bengal had proposed a bus link to Chittagong from Kolkata and another to Shillong via Dinajpur in Bangaldesh. Nilanjan Shandilya, MD of West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation (WBSTC) said that the two proposed routes had been sent to the Centre for clearance. But the bus to Chittagong can take over 18 hours, though it will help trade links, officials said.

Another rail link is also on the cards connecting Kolkata with North Bengal through Iswardi in Bangladesh via Nilphamari in northern Bangladesh to Siliguri or Cooch Behar. During the post-independence days, Kolkata-Siliguri trains used to run in this route too, this is likely to be revived soon.

Train routes

  • Kolkata to Khulna
  • Kolkata to Agartala via Dhaka
  • Kolkata to North Bengal via Nilphamari

Bus links :

  • Kolkata to Chittagong
  • Kolkata to Shillong via Bangladesh