Indo-Bangla Railway talks moot better Freight/Passenger Rail services for cross-border trade

डाका Dhaka:  The railway authorities of Bangladesh and India have evinced interest to increase rail connectivity between the two countries to facilitate cross-border travel and carriage of goods. Various proposals in this regard were discussed in a meeting between the two sides at the railway ministry yesterday, a source in the closed-door talks told.

India proposed to increase connectivity on the Chilarhati-Haldibari, Akhaura-Agartala, Shahbazpur-Mohishashan and Feni-Belunia routes while Bangladesh wanted to improve Khulna-Benapole-Kolkata connectivity, the source said.

Bangladesh was represented by an eight-member team, led by Shri. Shah Zahirul Islam, Additional Director General (Operations). The seven-member Indian team was headed by Shri. Ashim Kumar Maitra, Additional Member (Railway Board), New Delhi.

India has also proposed to Bangladesh to upgrade its railway tracks from 90 pounds (the weight of one metre rail track) to 120 pounds (the standard weight in India) so that seemless integration of railway operations can help betterment of connectivity and increased movement of freight and passenger services too.

However, the Bangladeshi team turned down the proposal because it would entail a huge expenditure to upgrade the tracks.

The proposed connectivity between Chilarhati and Haldibari also hit a roadblock. The Bangladeshi railway officials said Haldibari was a transit point for Bhutan and therefore the commerce ministry has to sign a protocol to clear the project.

On its part, the Indian delegation turned down Bangladesh’s proposal to complete immigration in Dhaka and Kolkata instead of Darshana and Gede.

The Bangladeshi team also proposed to introduce a second Maitree Express on the Khulna-Benapole-Kolkata route, however India desired to launch it through Darshana instead of Benapole, sources said.

The Bangladeshi side also wanted increase in the number of coaches and frequency of trips of the Maitree Express to reduce the sufferings of passengers.

The Maitree Express was launched on April 14, 2008, as a symbol of friendship between Bangladesh and India. According to the present schedule, the train leaves Dhaka on every Wednesday and Friday, and departs Kolkata on every Tuesday and Saturday.

The decision of upgrading rail connectivity will be taken by higher authorities. “Various proposals were discussed at the meeting. The final decision will be taken by our superiors in the government,” a senior railway official told.