Container train to Bangladesh
A train loaded with soaps, shampoo, shaving kit and textile fabric left Calcutta for Bangladesh via the Petrapole-Benapole border on Friday afternoon, the first container train through the busiest corridor for bilateral trade between the neighbouring countries.
The bulk of the trade between India and Bangladesh is driven by road cargo, followed by goods trains and ships. There are several land ports spread over Bengal and the northeastern states. Six are in Bengal.
But over 60 per cent of the land cargo passes through the Petrapole-Benapole border. Petrapole, in North 24-Parganas, is the closest land port from Calcutta, around 82km.
Trade through the Petrapole-Benapole land ports, which was stalled because of Covid-19 pandemic, resumed in the first week of July.
On Friday, the train with 50 containers was flagged off from a Container Corporation of India Ltd (Concor) terminus near Majherhat station around 2.30pm. It is expected to reach Benapole, around 240km from Dhaka, in 24 hours, said an official of Concor, a PSU under the railway ministry.
It is the second container train from India to Bangladesh. The first, which left in April 2018, travelled through Gede in Nadia, India, and Darsana in Bangladesh. “We had earlier got permission to run container trains through the Gede-Darsana route. The nod to run container trains through Petrapole-Benapole came recently,” said Syed Abdul Rahman, the senior general manager (east) of Concor.
Container trains save time and trade costs apart from making trade safer and more organised. Goods trains carry coal, iron ore, fertiliser, cement and other such freight with a longer transit time. Container trains are better suited for ferrying machine parts, chemicals, automobiles and consumer durables that involve a shorter transit time.
Indian products have a huge demand in Bangladesh. Trucks and goods trains carry these products but they take a lot of time. Several exporters had been lobbying for more container trains.
The Bangladesh high commission got in touch with Indian customs authorities to run trains through the Petrapole/Benapole border, said sources. Concor officials hoped the new route would be viable. “If successful, the container service would reduce the transportation time and have a lasting effect on trade,” said Rahman.