Khulna-Kolkata Railway Service launched – Modi, Hasina inaugurate Bandhan Express Rail service

The train would start ferrying passengers from November 16. It would leave Kolkata at 11 am (Indian time) and reach Khulna after four-and-a-half hours.

NEW DELHI: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina will jointly launch a cross-country passenger train service today.

The Khulna-Kolkata train service opens two bridges on railway routes connecting Dhaka with Sylhet and Chittagong.

Bangladesh government officials said the two premiers would inaugurate the projects through a video conferencing from New Delhi and Dhaka. They would also launch an ‘end-to-end’ immigration facility to ease Dhaka-Kolkata Maitree train services.

Railway officials said the two new bridges have been built on the Bhairab and Titas rivers for the second track for simultaneous operation of up and down train services from Dhaka to Chittagong and Sylhet.

“We will call the new structures as the second Bhairab Bridge and second Titas bridge,” a railway official familiar with the process said.

The train, which will operate on the 117-km-long Khulna-Kolkata route, would be dubbed as ‘Bandhan Express’.

It would start ferrying passengers from November 16 and according to the schedule, it would leave Kolkata at 11 am (Indian time) and reach Khulna after four-and-a-half hours.

The 984-meter long and 7-metre wide Bhairab Railway Bridge was built at a cost of 567 crore Taka. Its construction work began on December 25, 2013 and ended last month.

Under an agreement with Bangladesh government, India’s Ircon-Afcons JV constructed the bridge having both dual gauge and broad-gauge facilities.

The new Titas Bridge is 218-metre long and 7-metre wide and was built at a cost of 161.36 crore Taka by another Indian company called Gannon-Flcl Consortium under a nearly identical agreement with the government.

The construction work of the second Titas Bridge started on January 27, 2014 and ended last month.

Bangladesh Railway’s eastern zone general manager and project director of the two bridges Md Abdul Hai told media that the up train from Dhaka would move through one bridge, while the down one would use the other bridge. The trains connecting Dhaka with the major two cities could ply without any crossing at Bhairab and Akhaura stations.

“The bridges will reduce travel time between Dhaka and Chittagong and Dhaka and Sylhet. We will be able to run the dual gauge and broad gauge trains at 100-km and 120-km per hour respectively,” the official said.

Hai said Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) of Bangladesh had approved the initiative on November 9, 2010 to smoothen the Dhaka-Chittagong double line train services.

The British era train service on the route was suspended in 1965 when Indian and Pakistan was in a war with Bangladesh was eastern wing of Pakistan. Bangladesh fought a war six year later and liberated from Pakistan in 1971.

The resumption of the train connection was among the 22 agreements Bangladesh and Indian signed in April this year to improve people-to people contact between the two next-door neighbours.

Bangladesh and India has earlier launched a number of bus and train services.

On Thursday, Hasina and Modi also inaugurated two new railway bridges over the rivers Bhairab and Titas in north-eastern Bangladesh. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was connected through video conferencing at the flag-off event in Kolkata.

This train service is a dream come true for people on both sides of the border, said Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

“We want to cooperate with India and other countries in the immediate neighbourhood for creating an area of peace in South Asia,” she said.

Bangladesh values such engagements so “we can live as good neighbours and pursue constructive policies for the benefit of our people”.

Indian Prime Minister Modi said, India takes pride in being a reliable partner in Bangladesh’s development.

He said development and connectivity are linked with each other and the ties between India and Bangladesh, particularly between West Bengal and Bangladesh, are decades old.