India, Bangladesh resume freight train operation via Haldibari-Chilahati route
India and Bangladesh resumed the operation of freight trains through the restored Haldibari-Chilahati route on Sunday in a significant step aimed at boosting railway connectivity between the two countries.
The rail link was reopened by the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh on December 17, last year, for the movement of passenger and freight trains. On Sunday, the Indian Railways ran the first freight train laden with stones from Damdim railway station under Northeast Frontier Railway's jurisdiction for Bangladesh.
Situated 12km away from Bangladesh's Chilahati, the railway station in Haldibari is located 4.5km from the international border, also known as ‘zero point’. Indian Railways officials said five links connecting India with Bangladesh have been made operational, including between Petrapole (India) and Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India) and Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India) and Rohanpur (Bangladesh), Radhikapur (India) and Birol (Bangladesh) apart from Haldibari and Chilahati.
The Haldibari-Chilahati rail link between India and Bangladesh (the then East Pakistan) was operational till 1965. This was part of the Broad Gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri during the Partition. Trains travelling to Assam and North Bengal continued to travel through the territory even after the Partition. However, the war of 1965 effectively cut off all the railway links between India and the then East Pakistan.
Around 20 freight trains are expected to be interchanged through the rail link every month. The link is intended to improve freight and passenger connections between Bangladesh and Assam and West Bengal, and will aid the growth of trade and economic development in the region.
A passenger train service, New Jalpaiguri-Dhaka-New Jalpaiguri Mitali Express was announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka March 27, 2021, but the service could not be resumed owing to the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.