Indo-Bangla Chilahati-Haldibari rail link resumes after 56 years

After 56 years, India and Bangladeshi freight trains have restarted operations on the Chilahati-Haldibari route, with the first stone-laden freight train from India’s Damdim station entering Bangladesh on Sunday.

This rail link was relaunched as the fifth rail link between India and Bangladesh.

During Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to Bangladesh on March 26-27 to join celebrations of the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence, the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and 50 years of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Bangladesh, he and his Bangladesh counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, had pledged to restore all pre-1965 rail links between the two neighbouring countries.

As a result, both governments took up the task of restoring the rail links to strengthen their rail connectivity and bilateral trade.

Even after the Partition, rail traffic was still running on this route. At that time, passenger and freight trains used to run on this route between India and then East Pakistan.

As many as 7 rail links were operational after the partition in 1947 till 1965, when after the India-Pakistan war, the railway service between the two countries was closed.

Following the restoration, Sheikh Hasina and Modi jointly inaugurated the Chilahati (Bangladesh)-Haldibari (India) rail link during the PM level virtual bilateral summit on December 17, 2020.

They also jointly inaugurated the Mitali Express train from Dhaka to New Jalpaiguri. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, its running was deferred for the time being.

The Sheikh Hasina government has taken the project, costing 80, 16, 94,000 takas, of constructing a 6.724 km broad gauge railway from Chilahati railway station to the border and construction of 2.36 km loop line and other infrastructure.

At present, there are four operational rail links between Bangladesh and India – Benapole (Bangladesh)-Petrapole (India), Darshana (Bangladesh)-Gede (India), Rohanpur (Bangladesh)-Singhabad (India), and Birol (Bangladesh)-Radhikapur (India).