India, Bangladesh launch cross-border passenger train service

PM Modi flags off Kolkata-Khulna Bandhan Express with Sheikh Hasina, Mamata

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Thursday flagged off the Bandhan Express to be run between south-western Bangladeshi city of Khulna and the capital of Indian state of West Bengal Kolkata through a video conferencing.

The worldwide rail Ppassenger terminus at Chitpur in Kolkata will make it possible for Indian passengers traveling to Dhaka or Khulna in Bangladesh by Maitree Express or the newly launched Bandhan Express to get immigration clearance before boarding the trains. Modi, Hasina and Banerjee also inaugurated two bridges over river Meghna and river Titas in Bangladesh. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also described it as a historic day for both the countries. He said that the close connection and understanding between two countries required connectivity between the people across the border and that Maitree Express and Bandhan Express trains would bring more connectivity between India and Bangladesh and strengthen further bonding.

After a gap of more than five decades, India and Bangladesh resumed train service between Kolkata and Khulna on Thursday.

The Indian premier also conveyed best wishes to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her speedy recovery on behalf of the people of India.

"We want to cooperate with India and other countries in the immediate neighbourhood for creating an area of peace in South Asia", she said.

"I am happy to note that we are making progresses in that direction step by step".

The Bandhan Express, meaning a train of bond, is the second cross-border passenger rail service between the two neighbouring countries, the first being Moitree Express that runs between Bangladesh capital Dhaka and Kolkata. "We feel proud to be a trusted partner for development projects in Bangladesh", he said.

Under an agreement with Bangladesh government, India's Ircon-Afcons JV constructed the bridge having both dual gauge and broad- gauge facilities.

She invited Modi, Mamata and Sushma to visit Bangladesh.

Bangladesh and India are working to re-open pre-1965 rail links for freight transport, Hasina added.

India and Bangladesh would touch a "new sky" of development and prosperity as the bilateral ties are being taken forward and people-to-people relations are further strengthened, he added.

The 982.20m long and 7m width Bhairab Railway Bridge was built at a cost of 5.67bn taka, with construction beginning in 2013.

The Bandhan Express will start ferrying passengers from November 16 onwards.

"The rail network, which has been constructed with nearly $100 million, will enhance connectivity in a big way between India and Bangladesh". It will start from Kolkata at 6:00am and reach Khulna at 1:00pm.

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