Friday, April 11, 2008

Dhaka-Kolkata rail link "Moitree Express" to begin Monday

Following a deal signed between India and Bangladesh last evening, "Moitree Express", the only rail link between Kolkata and Dhaka, will resume next Monday for the first time in more than four decades.

Monday is the first day of the Bengali New Year.

The two countries will operate one train service a week, but the frequency can be increased if there is enough demand, said a Bangladesh Railway official.

Bangladesh's Communication Secretary Muhammad Mahbubur Rahman said that the Monday's trip of the Moitree Express would be the first passenger train to leave Dhaka for India since 1965.

At the same time India's Dhaka-bound Moitree Express will leave Kolkata. Indian Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav will flag off the train from Chitpur railway station in Kolkata.

"It's a historic day. We're recreating history. It's the beginning of a new chapter in connectivity between the two countries and the region. It will facilitate greater economic linkages between the two nations," India's High Commissioner to Bangladesh Pinak Ranjan Chakravarti said after signing the agreement with Rahman in Dhaka.

Passenger services between the two countries were suspended after the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. Bangladesh was then part of Pakistan and became Independent in 1971.

Bangladesh officials said revival of the passenger train service links highlighted Bangladesh's improved ties with India. Relations between the two sides have normally been friendly but ties have sometimes been strained by skirmishes along the West Bengal border.

"It's a beginning. Resumption of this rail connectivity will strengthen ties between the two countries and revive all the potential of the past," Rahman said.

The Moitree Express will carry 418 passengers, Bangladesh's Railway Chief Belayet Hossain said.

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