As a major step towards boosting people to people contact, a railway link has been inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina on Thursday between Haldibari and Chilahati. According to Indian Railways’ NFR zone, after partition in the year 1947, seven rail links were operational between India and the then East Pakistan up to the year 1965. At present, there are four rail links that are operational between India and Bangladesh- Petrapole – Benapole, Gede – Darshana, Singhabad -Rohanpur, Radhikapur – Birol. The newly inaugurated Haldibari – Chilahati rail link is the fifth rail link between the two countries.
The rail link between Haldibari and Chilahati, which was part of the Broad Gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri during partition was operational till 1965. Even after partition, trains traveling to the northeastern state of Assam and North Bengal continued to travel through the then East Pakistan territory. However, during the war in 1965, the railway links between India and the then East Pakistan were effectively cut off.
According to NFR, in pursuance of the joint declaration in the IGRM, which was held in Delhi in May 2015, the Railway Board sanctioned for construction of a new Broad Gauge line from Haldibari railway station to Bangladesh Border for connection with Chilahati, covering a length of 3.50 km in 2016-17, to reopen this rail link. The national transporter, at a cost of Rs 82.72 crores, has restored the railway tracks up to the international border from Haldibari railway station. Accordingly, upgradation works and laying of missing tracks were undertaken by Bangladesh Railways on their side from Chilahati railway station to the international border. On the Bangladesh side, the existing line connecting Chilahati – Parbatipur – Santahar – Darshana is already in broad gauge.
The newly opened railway route between Haldibari and Chilahati will be beneficial for transit into the neighbouring country, Bangladesh from the states of West Bengal and Assam. This rail link will enhance the accessibility of the railway network to the dry ports, main ports, land borders to support the growth in regional trade as well as to encourage the region’s economic and social development. Once passenger trains are planned in this route, the public of both countries will be able to reap the benefit of both passenger and goods traffic. Also, with this line, tourists from Bangladesh will be able to easily visit places such as Sikkim, Darjeeling, Dooars other than countries like Bhutan, Nepal, etc. This new rail link will also benefit the economic activities of these South Asian countries.