Guwahati: India on Tuesday handed over 20 Broad Gauge (BG) locomotives to neighbouring Bangladesh, thus fulfilling a commitment made to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during her visit to India in October 2019.

The handing over ceremony was attended by Railway Minister of India Ashwini Vaishaw and his Bangladeshi counterpart Md Nurul Islam Sujan, virtually.

To further strengthen the bilateral relationship, the locomotives were virtually flagged off to Bangladesh in a handing over ceremony held at the Rail Bhavan in the national capital.

The event was attended by A K Lahoti, Chairman and CEO, Railway Board, Board Members, senior officials of Railway Board and delegates of Bangladesh.

The handing over of the diesel locomotives, under grant assistance from the Indian government, fulfills an important commitment made during the visit of Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina to India in October, 2019.

In keeping with the requirements of Bangladesh Railway, the locomotives have been suitably modified by the Indian side.

These locomotives will help handle the increasing volume of passenger and freight train operations in Bangladesh.

Speaking on this occasion, Railway Minister of India Ashwini Vaishnaw said, “India’s relationship with Bangladesh is civilizational, cultural, social and economic. Prime Ministers of both the countries are playing a proactive role to improve bilateral relationships across social, economic and political sectors. Indian Railways are also playing a vital role in improving and strengthening rail connectivity across the border and improving trade between both the countries. As of now, five BG connectivity are operational, namely Geda-Darsana, Benapol-Petrapol, Singhabad-Rohanpur, Radhikapur-Birol and Haldibari-Chilahati. Work on two more cross border rail connectivities, Akhaura-Agartala and Mahihasan-Shahbazpur are progressing well and are likely to be completed and commissioned shortly.”

Addressing the gathering virtually, Minister of Railway, Bangladesh Md. Nurul Islam Sujan said, “I express my gratitude to the Indian Government for their support. Previously in June 2020 Indian Government provided 10 locomotives to Bangladesh as grant. We express our heartfelt gratitude to India for providing broad gauge locomotives. The supply of locomotives will help to improve both goods and passenger trains. We hope that existing collaboration between two countries regarding the Railways sector will increase day by day.”

To enhance people to people contact, presently three pairs of passenger trains between India and Bangladesh, namely, Kolkata-Dhaka Maitree Express, Kolkata-Khulna Bandhan Express and New Jalpaiguri-Dhaka Mitali Express are running.

Trade between both the countries via rail have seen consistent growth with interchange of close to 100 cargo trains per month and approximately 2.66 Metric Tonnes (MT) cargo was sent to Bangladesh in the last financial year. The export commodities are Stone, Documents, Foodgrains, China Clay, Gypsum, Maize, Onion and other essential items, as and when required, from India.

Since 2020, permission has been given to operate parcel containers and New Modified Goods (NMG), rakes which normally carry agricultural products, fabrics, finished goods, light commercial vehicles and tractors.

A new traffic of geo-synthetic bags has just started and three parcel trains have been sent from Gujarat.

In line with Indian commitment to improve Rail service in Bangladesh, 10 BG Diesel locomotives were handed over to Bangladesh on grant basis in July 2020.

As reported by Bangladesh, these locomotives are performing well and contributing well in smooth movement rail traffic in Bangladesh.