Fulfilling a long-cherished dream of the travel lovers, the government is going to introduce Dhaka-Darjeeling direct train service via Nilphamari. In this regard, the government would have to construct a 7-kilometre broad gauge railway from Chilahati Station in Nilphamari to the Cooch Behar border, in order to reintroduce an old Chilahati-Haldibari route.
Similarly, Indian railway is constructing the 3-kilometre long Cooch Behar border to Haldibari portion of the track to reestablish the British-era rail route that was shut down following the second Indo-Pak War in 1965. The route lost its previous glory over the time since its closure.
The construction of Chilahati portion rail line is scheduled to be started in the next week, to introduce direct train service from Dhaka to Darjeeling and Shiliguri in India soon.
Already Bangladesh Railway has started primary construction works of its portion. Railway minister Md Nurul Islam Sujon will formally inaugurate the construction on September 21, sources from Bangladesh Railway told Bangladesh Post. Sources said once implemented, the project would ensure direct train service from Dhaka to Darjeeling, Siliguri, Jalpaiguri and New Jalpaiguri.
Mentionable, in 2010, India and Bangladesh agreed to reopen the old route during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India. Reopening of the route is expected to boost the bilateral trade besides opening up new trade opportunities with Bhutan and Nepal. Bangladesh Railway will implement the project, scheduled to be completed by January 2021, at an estimated cost of Tk 80.16 crore. The whole fund will come from the government exchequer.
Under the project, six bridges and Chilahati rail station will be constructed following global standard. Notable, Bangladesh and India once had a total of seven railway interchange points. Of them, four are now operational and three are shut down. The Chilahati-Haldibari route is considered very important for Bangladesh as it might lead to establishing a rail link with Bhutan through India in future, once the old route is reintroduced.
The rail link will also facilitate plying of freight and passenger trains from Bangladesh to Darjeeling via Siliguri which was in operation before 1965. The project comes as part of the government’s decision to revive all the railway interchanges with India to ensure seamless rail connectivity with the neighbouring country.
Both the governments decided to reopen the important Chilahati-Haldibari railway interchange in an Inter-Governmental Railway Meeting (IGRM) held in New Delhi on May 25-27 in 2015. With the new initiative, exports and imports through Mongla port are expected see a rise as the rail link will help increase trade cooperation with north-eastern part of India.
Trades with India and Nepal are also expected to see a jump following completion of the rail line and subsequent deals with India. Bangladesh Railway has already conducted a feasibility study on the proposed project and submitted a report with regard to this, which found the project economically and financially viable.
Meanwhile, the four operational rail routes between two countries are – Benapole-Petrapole, Darshana-Geda, Rohanpur-Singabad and Biral-Radhikapur. According to the railways ministry, a total of 371.33 kilometers new railways have been constructed and 1152.48 kilometers railways were renovated in the last 10 years since Awami League assuming to power in 2009.