Nearly 10 years after Kolkata-Dhaka passenger train was flagged off after a gap of 43 years, a new train – Bandhan Express – was inaugurated between Kolkata and Khulna in Bangladesh, covering a distance of about 172 km, on Thursday.
The air-conditioned weekly passenger train, which was announced during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s India visit in April, will run every Thursday from both Kolkata and Khulna. Railway passenger and freight services between India and the erstwhile East Pakistan [later Bangladesh], which had continued after Independence, were stopped during the 1965 war.
The new service was flagged off by the Prime Minister of India, Prime Minister of Bangladesh and Chief Minister of West Bengal through video conferencing. They also inaugurated the second Bhairab and Titas railway bridges on Dhaka-Chittagong route over the Meghna and Titas rivers respectively in Bangladesh and also the railway passenger terminus with immigration and customs clearance facilities at the Kolkata station.
The total seating capacity of Bandhan Express is 456, an Eastern Railway spokesman said.
Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the ties of friendship between India and Bangladesh had further strengthened through these projects. Mr. Modi said in Bengali, “ Aaj ei shubho upolokkhe dui deshbashider amar abhinandan janai. Aaj amader maitree-r bandhan aro sudhriro holo (I congratulate the people of the two countries on this auspicious occasion. Our friendship got further strengthened today).”
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the day would be marked as a “great day for relations between the two countries with the inauguration of the train services and the two bridges.”
“This train service is a dream come true for people on both sides of the border,” she said, adding that all the pre-1965 railway lines between the two countries would be revived. “Some have already started and the others too will,” she said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee described the launch as a remarkable day for India and Bangladesh."The relations between the two countries will strengthen in future,” she said.