Bangladesh and India are going to announce launching of the new passenger train, which will run between the two neighbouring countries, on Saturday, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan said yesterday.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, who is scheduled to be in Bangladesh on March 26 and 27, will jointly give the announcement, he said.
"This is going to be a historic moment. This will be a big achievement for communication between the two countries," the minister said at a press briefing inside Rail Bhaban.
However, the train's operation between Dhaka and West Bengal's New Jalpaiguri (NJP) will start after the Covid-19 situation reaches normalcy, he added.
The railways ministry in October last year announced that Bangladesh and India were planning to introduce a passenger train service on Dhaka-Siliguri route from this March to mark 50 years of Bangladesh's independence, as the restoration work of Chilahati-Haldibari rail link was nearly complete.
After 55 years, rail communication between the countries via Chilahati-Haldibari route resumed in December. Freight trains were supposed to be regular since then, but that did not happen yet.
The minster said there was uncertainty, even on Sunday, on whether the announcement of the launch would be given, considering West Bengal assembly election and some other issues. But it was resolved yesterday.
He said Sheikh Hasina selected "Mitali Express" as the train's name, and it was approved by the Indian side.
FARE AND OTHER ISSUES
The train will run from Dhaka's Cantonment Station on Mondays and Thursdays, and from New Jalpaiguri on Sundays and Wednesdays. Customs and immigration facilities will be provided at NJP, Dhaka Cantonment and Chilahati stations.
The minister said more than two coaches would be added with the train from Chilahati to benefit people of the northern district, and they would get customs and immigration facilities at Chilahati station in Nilphamari.
The fare for the 595km Dhaka-NJP route would be Tk 2,705 for a chair, Tk 3,805 for a seat and TK 4,905 for a berth. All prices include vat and travel tax, and the ticket holders will get air-conditioning facility, he said.
The fare for Chilahati-NJP would be Tk 1,235 for a chair under air-conditioning, he added. The 10-coach train would have 864 seats.
COX'S BAZAR UNDER RAIL NETWORK WITHIN DECEMBER 2022
The minister yesterday said Cox's Bazar, the country's top tourist destination, will come under rail network within December next year.
Despite project of the first track witnessing 51 percent physical progress till February this year, the minister expressed hope while talking to journalists at Rail Bhaban.
The deadline for building a dual gauge single rail line from Chattogram to Cox's Bazar is June next year. "Works [of the project] is ongoing to meet the target, and progress is satisfactory," he said.
"We have kept six more months as grace period, and if we cannot complete the project within June, then we will be able to complete it within the grace period. We will be able to connect Cox's Bazar with rest of the country through rail by December 2022," he said.
Bangladesh Railway (BR) has been building a 108-kilometre rail track between Chattogram's Dohazari and Cox's Bazar via Ramu under a Tk 18,034.47 crore project, with the timeframe being July 2010 to June 2022 and finance of Asian Development Bank. Chattogram is already connected with the rail network.
In 2010, the government decided to construct a 128-kilometre metre gauge rail track to link Chattogram with bordering Gundum via Cox's Bazar.
But it changed the decision in 2014 and decided to build a dual gauge track for better connectivity, raising the cost tenfold to Tk 18,034.47 crore.
Besides, authorities shelved plans of the first phase, which was constructing the track up to Gundum, near the Myanmar border, from Ramu, owing to fund shortages.
After a lot of hurdles, construction work for the track from Dohazari to Ramu started in March 2018.
However, land acquisition continues to linger as a problem. Besides, Covid-19 halted construction for more than two months last year, and the project is still facing problems in getting normal supply of construction materials from abroad, BR sources said.
Contacted, project director Mofizur Rahman yesterday said, "We are hopeful about completing the project works within December next year, if no major obstacle arises."
In the case of having to revise project deadline, he said, "We will take decision in this regard three months before the deadline's expiry."