The New Year brings good news for Bangladeshi travellers.
People can go to Siliguri in India directly by bus as the neighbouring countries have agreed to open a new Dhaka-Siliguri-Dhaka bus route, officials said.
Officials concerned are now working on the protocol and the agreement to be signed by the countries, and hope to start bus services soon after land connectivity between Bangladesh and India resumes.
Once the operation starts, it will be the sixth direct bus route between the countries.
"We have received Indian proposal in this regard recently and are now scrutinising all necessary aspects," said Sultana Yasmin, a deputy secretary of Road Transport and Highway Division, which looks after connectivity issues.
They called a meeting on January 13 to discuss all relevant issues, she told The Daily Star yesterday.
Representatives of the National Board of Revenue, foreign ministry, home ministry, commerce ministry, Roads and Highways Department (RHD), Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) and Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) are expected to join.
BRTC authorities were asked to give their opinion over commencement of passenger bus services, sources said.
The development came a year after the trial run of direct bus services on the Dhaka-Gangtok and Dhaka-Darjeeling routes via Siliguri, conducted in December last year, aiming to boost cross-border passenger services.
After the trial run -- conducted following the countries' agreement in principle to launch direct bus services -- it was found that direct bus service between Dhaka-Gangtok and Dhaka-Darjeeling would not be smooth due to the narrow roads from Siliguri, a member of the trail team said.
"So both countries decided to launch the Dhaka-Siliguri direct bus service. Passengers would be able to go to Darjeeling and Gangtok using smaller vehicles from there," he said.
Currently, passengers have to change buses at the border to go to West Bengal's Siliguri.
Amjad Hossain, spokesperson of BRTC, said, "Both countries agreed to open the route and work on signing agreement and protocol is now going on. We are hopeful of starting bus operations within two weeks after connectivity of both countries is restored."
Passenger bus services between Bangladesh and India have been suspended since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Amjad, also general manager (accounts) of BRTC, said Shyamoli NR Travels operates buses on all five routes and they are considering allowing it to operate buses on the new route.
Suvenker Ghosh Rakesh, managing director of Shyamoli, said they are ready to operate the bus when authorities ask them to.
Distance between Dhaka and Darjeeling via Siliguri is around 450 kilometres whereas distance between Dhaka and Gangtok via Siliguri is around 500km.
Currently, buses operate on five cross-border routes.