Indian Railways' freight loading.
Indian Railways' freight loading.. Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Aug 2 : Almost eight months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina reopened the Haldibari-Chilahati rail link, both the countries have started regular operation of freight trains through the restored rail route after a span of more than 50 years, officials said on Monday.

A railway ministry spokesperson said that with the joint efforts of Indian Railways and Bangladesh Railway, India and Bangladesh have started regular operation of freight trains through the restored Haldibari-Chilahati Rail Route from Sunday when Indian Railways dispatched the first freight train loaded with stones from Damdim station of Northeast Frontier Railway (India) to Bangladesh.

He said that the distance between Haldibari Railway Station till the international border is 4.5 km, while that of Chilahati is around 7.5 km till the 'zero point'.

As of now, five links connecting India with Bangladesh have been made operational which include Petrapole (India) - Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India) - Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India) Rohanpur (Bangladesh), Radhikapur (India) - Birol (Bangladesh) with Haldibari-Chilahati forming the fifth such link.

The official said that the Haldibari-Chilahati rail link between India and the then East Pakistan was operational till 1965.

"This was part of the Broad Gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri during partition. Trains travelling to Assam and North Bengal continued to travel through the then East Pakistan territory even after partition. However, the war of 1965 effectively cut off all the railway links between India and the then East Pakistan," he said.

The official said that around 20 freight trains per month are expected to be interchanged through this rail link.

"The link is intended to improve freight and passenger connections between Bengal and the Assam and West Bengal regions, and will aid the growth of trade and economic development in the region," he said.

He also said that a passenger train service, New Jalpaiguri-Dhaka-New Jalpaiguri Mitali Express was announced jointly by Indian Prime Minister and Bangladesh Prime Minister during the Indian Prime Minister's visit to Dhaka on March 27, 2021, service of which could not be started due to Covid Pandemic.

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