Immigration and custom checks at border points for passengers of Dhaka-Kolkata Maitree Express will soon be done away with, ending a major inconvenience, senior railway officials of India and Bangladesh said. Just like in international flights, checks will continue only while boarding and deboarding a train at Dhaka Cantonment and Kolkata stations, reducing the journey time from around nine hours to around six-seven hours. The Indian and Bangladesh governments have finally decided to end two rigorous and time consuming immigration checks at Darshona (Bangladesh side) and at Gede (Indian side), conceding a major demand of passengers from both sides, the officials said.
Passengers had to deboard along with their luggage at these two points for checks which took anywhere between two to three hours. Officials added that the passengers will not be able to deboard the train anytime during the journey. The end-to-end immigration check is likely to be launched by the prime ministers of the two countries this November, the officials said . “The checks will now be done at Kolkata and Dhaka. It will solve a lot of issues that passengers have while dealing with such checks which cause delay as well,” Md Habibur Rahman, Assisting Director General (Operations) of Bangladesh Railway, told PTI, adding the new system will be officially launched next month.
Officials in Indian Railways told PTI that while there will be no checks at Darshona and Gede anymore, the train will halt for technical checks by security forces of either country at these stations. During the halts when the train’s under carriage will be checked, officials said, the passenger coaches will be under lock and key, thus restricting any passenger movement. Currently India and Bangladesh have four operational rail links between West Bengal and Western Bangladesh. These are Petrapole-Benapole, Gede-Darshana, Radhikapur-Biral and Singhabad-Rohanpur.
Indian officials say that efforts are being made to operationalise two more rail connections by next year to take the number of rail links between the two countries to six, as in pre-1965 era.
Indian Railway has already listed its upcoming links – Haldibari in Norther West Bengal to Chilahati in Bangladesh and Shahbazpur in eastern Bangladesh with Mahisasan in Assam. Three more rail connections are proposed between the two nations – between Panchagarh in North-Western Bangladesh and Siliguri, Agartala-Akhaura link which will connect West Bengal and Tripura through Bangladesh and the line connecting southern Tripura’s border town Belonia to Chittagong international sea port in (southeast) Bangladesh. “This is a great victory for both Indian and Bangladesh railways. If this works out successfully, then we are planning to run these trains at night, just like in Europe,” said a railway official in India.