With the aim of increasing connectivity with neighbouring Bangladesh, Indian railways on Saturday inaugurated the Kolkata-to-Dhaka via Khulna train service.
This comes at a time when the Bangladeshi Prime Minister is in New Delhi for bilateral talks with the Indian leadership.
Train service between the two nations, which had been discontinued since 1965, was first restored when the Maitree Express between Kolkata and Dhaka was operationalised in 2008. The train launched today, while being a second between Kolkata and Dhaka, will pass via Khulna. The new service will operate through the Benapole-Petrapole border, making one trip every week.
Named Maitree Express-2, the train service was jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina along with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee through a video link from New Delhi.
BUS SERVICE FROM KOLKATA TO DHAKA ALSO INAUGURATED
Apart from this train facility, a new bus service plying from Kolkata to Dhaka via Khulna was also flagged off at the same time from West Bengal state secretariat Nabanna in Howrah. State ministers Firhad Hakim, Partha Chatterjee and Subrata Mukherjee accompanied by a host of Bangladeshi delegates were present at the inauguration of this service.
Hailing the move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, "Today, we have added several new links to our growing connectivity. Bus and train links between Kolkata and Khulna have been restored today. Water-based routes are being optimised. This will bring about a new sub-regional integration." Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina too stressed on the need for better connectivity. "Greater connectivity is vital for the development of the region", she said.
The new bus route through Mawa, Gopalganj, Khulna and Jessore is expected to reduce a distance of 96 kilometres approximately from the current Dhaka-Kolkata bus route. Earlier on Monday, the Bangladesh government had approved the draft of a proposal to establish a new passenger bus service between Dhaka and Kolkata that received the final nod in a weekly cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Hasina.
FIRST PASSENGER TRAIN BETWEEN KOLKATA, DHAKA IN 2008
In 2008, the first passenger train service between Dhaka and Kolkata - the Maitree Express - was launched. Train service between the two nations had been discontinued since 1965. The new train between Kolkata station and Khulna will regularly commence from April 15 on Bengali New year.
Regular passenger train services from Sealdah to Khulna and Jessore through the Petropole -Benapole route existed before partition. Thirty years after the independence of Bangladesh, this Indo-Bangla rail corridor was reopened in 2001 for goods trains subsequently.