The first goods train, carrying stone chips from Damdim station of Alipurduar Division under Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) reached Chilahati station in Bangladesh through the reopened Haldibari-Chilahati rail link.
The train reached Chilahati station at 4:35 pm on Sunday, NF Railway said.
The railway network of India and Bangladesh are mostly inherited from the Indian Railways of the British era.
After partition in 1947, a total of 7 rail links were operational between India and then East Pakistan (up to 1965).
Recently, there were 4 operational rail links between India and Bangladesh including Petrapole (India)-Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India)-Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India)-Rohanpur (Bangladesh), Radhikapur (India)–Birol (Bangladesh).
The Haldibari-Chilahati rail link, made functional from December 17, 2020, is the 5th rail link between India and Bangladesh.
The Haldibari-Chilahati rail link was operational till 1965.
This was part of the main rail route from Kolkata to Siliguri during the partition.
Trains traveling to Assam and North Bengal continued to travel through the then East Pakistan territory even after partition.
However, the war of 1965 effectively cut off all the railway links between India and then East Pakistan.
In pursuance of the joint declaration in the Inter-Governmental Railway Meeting (IGRM) held in Delhi in May, 2015, the Railway Board sanctioned for construction of a new BG line from Haldibari station to Bangladesh Border for connecting with Chilahati (Bangladesh) [3.50 km] in 2016-17 in order to reopen this erstwhile rail link.
Indian Railways has restored the tracks up to the international border from Haldibari station at a cost of Rs. 82.72 crore.
Bangladesh Railways has also accordingly undertaken up-gradation and laying of missing tracks on their side from Chilahati station to international border.
On the Bangladesh side, Chilahati-Parbatipur-Santahar-Darshana existing line is already in broad gauge.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the Haldibari-Chilahatirail link on December 17, 2020 during the PM-level virtual bilateral summit.
However, due to the Covid19 pandemic, regular train services could not be started in the section since then.
“Haldibari-Chilahati route will provide a shorter route for transit of goods into Bangladesh from Assam, West Bengal, Nepal and Bhutan,” the NFR CPRO said.
This rail link will enhance rail network access to the main ports, dry ports and land borders to support the growth in regional trade and to encourage economic and social development of the region, he added.
“Economic activities of these South Asian countries will also be benefitted from this new rail link,” he further said.