Bangladesh and India formally started operating commercial container trains yesterday more than two years after the trial run of the service, aiming to boost cross-border trade and business.
The first train, which started from Container Corporation of India Ltd (CONCOR) terminal in Kolkata's Majerhat, carrying 50 containers, reached Benapole Railway Station at 12:25pm, Bangladesh Railway (BR) officials said.
The goods, which include garment fabrics and toiletries, were unloaded at Benapole land port, they said, adding that necessary custom procedures would be followed before transporting them inside the country.
Three railway officials, including the divisional railway manager (Pakshy), were present when the train arrived at Benapole Railway Station, they added.
"We are hopeful that the service will continue," Shafiqur Rahman, director (traffic) of BR, told The Daily Star yesterday.
The development came days after the first parcel train came to Bangladesh carrying 384 tonnes of dry chillies from Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh in the second week of this month.
Besides, the first ship under the trial run of transhipment of Indian goods to its north-eastern states through Bangladesh reached Tripura last week.
Even though passenger and goods trains have been running between the two countries for long, businessmen of both countries had been demanding for container train services to make their trade faster, safer, hassle-free and more organised, BR officials said.
The two countries carried out the test run of the first containerised freight train in April 2018.
Earlier in April 2017, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Indian CONCOR and Container Company of Bangladesh Limited (CCBL) to operate container services between the two countries.
A BR official said the container trains will run up to Benapole station until some infrastructures are developed.
Once the infrastructures are ready, trains would go as far as to Bangabandhu Bridge West Station.
There will be a small ICD terminal near the Bangabandhu Bridge station, which will facilitate the service, he said, wishing not to be named.
"But the container trains would not go to Dhaka or Chattogram for now as there is a weight restriction on Bangabandhu bridge," he said.
Asked how they would charge from the container trains, the official said it would be same as the charge imposed on other freight trains operate between the two countries.
Mofizur Rahman, president of Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association, said the new service would bring momentum in trade.
"If a container terminal is established at Benapole port, the export and import through the port would be doubled and revenue income of the government will also increase," he told our Benapole correspondent.
Benapole Custom Commissioner Azizur Rahman also expressed similar remarks.
Meanwhile, India has said the newly introduced container train service has opened up a huge opportunity for bilateral trade via rail.
"It's expected that this initiative will substantially boost business and trade between the two countries," Indian High Commission in Dhaka said in a press release yesterday.
The container train service will be a permanent service connecting the nominated inland container depots and terminals of CONCOR in India and various stations under Bangladesh Railway.