The third direct train connection with neighbouring India, through bordering Chilahati station in Nilphamari, is likely to start in July this year as half of the work for the purpose has been done in six months.
The construction work of rail lines from the station to the border is going on in full swing to connect with Indian tracks at Holdibari station of Kunchbihar district in west Bengal, said officials of Bangladesh Railway (BR).
Two existing rail routes with India are Dhaka-Kolkata-Dhaka and Khulna-Kolkata-Khulna.
For better connectivity with India, the Bangladesh government launched a project to construct 6.724-kilometre-long rail line from Chilahati station to the border and 2.636-kilometre loop line at the station, colour light signalling, telecommunication system etc in June last year, said Touhidur Rahman, senior sub assistant engineer of BR.
Max Infrastructure Ltd got the Tk 69 crore work order for its completion by one year, said the official, who monitors the work.
Bangladesh Railways Minister Nurul Islam accompanied by Indian High Commissioner Riva Ganguli inaugurated the work at Chilahati station in the middle of last year.
In the ceremony, the minister expressed optimism that prime ministers of both the countries will inaugurate the route by July 2020 through a video conference.
“The rail route was operative till 1965. Darjeeling Mail, running from Kolkata’s Shialdah railway station via Ranaghat of West Bengal, entered this country [then East Pakistan] to touch Bheramara, Hardinge Bridge, Santahar, Hili, Parbotipur Nilphamari and Chilahati before reaching Indian territory in the north to go to Darjeeling via Holdibari, Jalpaiguri and Shiliguri,” the Indian envoy said at the inaugural function.
She also hinted that the coming rail link might be a similar one.
“After completion of the work, BR will be able to operate in Dhaka–Shiliguri-Dhaka route, facilitating passengers to visit nearby Indian tourist spot Darjeeling. And India is likely to operate a train on Kolkata-Shiliguri route, which will shorten the existing 537-kilometre distance by 200 kilometres,” said BR’s Additional Director General Shahidul Islam.
However, the arrangement will be finalised after discussion between the Bangladesh and Indian authorities, he said.
Project-in-charge Rokonuzzaman Shihab said the work will hopefully be complete by June as 50% of it is already complete.
By this time, Indian authorities completed construction of 6.50 km rail lines in its territory from Holdibari station to the border adjacent to Chilahati and conducted trial run of trains in the section, said Md Mobin, stationmaster at Chilahati.