Haldibari being upgraded for Bangla rail link
Indian Railways has started augmenting the infrastructure at Haldibari station in Cooch Behar to resume train services to Chilahati across the Bangladesh border.
The border is just 3.5km from Haldibari, which is around 30km from here.
Chilahati is in Nilphamari district of the neighbouring country and is 8km from the zero point.
Seven tracks are being laid from Haldibari to the zero point.
In 2011, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina had agreed to revive the railway route.
Railway officials said work was in progress to build two more platforms (one already exists there), which would be 560m long, separate restrooms for the railway staff of India and Bangladesh, a new station office, ticket counters and waiting rooms.
“We are also laying seven tracks, of which five would be used to run trains between India and Bangladesh. Two others would be kept as alternative to run trains of VIPs, salon cars, engines and machines,” said Satyajit Tewari, the station master of Haldibari.
In March, a loco was run from Haldibari to the zero point on a trial basis.
The railways, sources said, had sanctioned Rs 42 crore so far for the project and the plan was to finish the work by 2019.
On Bangladesh side, around 8km of tracks would be laid from Chilahati station to the zero point.
“Our government has sanctioned over Rs 80 crore for the project and work to lay the tracks till the border and infrastructure development of Chilahati station started,” Kamal Ahmed, the president of the ruling Awami League in Nilphamari district, said over the phone.
According to him, an administrative building and other infrastructure have been readied at Chilahati. Also, a portion of the tracks have been laid near the border.
Before the construction of the Farakka Barrage, the Darjeeling Mail would run on a route that covers Chilahati, Nilphamari, Parbatipur, Santahar, Ishwardi, Hardinge Bridge, Bheramara and Darshana in Bangladesh (East Pakistan then) and would re-enter India through Gede-Ranaghat route to reach Sealdah.
The train service, however, came to a halt in 1965 during the India-Pakistan war.
“We have travelled a number of times along the route. It used to take less time than the current route of Darjeeling Mail as the distance was short. It is good that after almost half-a-century, both the governments have decided to revive this route. It would largely benefit north Bengal residents if trains move on the route again. Also, the connectivity would contribute to the economic development of Haldibari and the surrounding areas,” said Satyajit Rakshit, a retired railway employee in Haldibari.
Local people also pointed out that once the railway route was made operational, it would help in transport of goods between the countries and from Nepal and Bhutan.
“Nepal and Bhutan can transport their products along the route and through the Mongla sea port in Bagerhat district of Bangladesh. Also, there is a longstanding demand to start passenger train services from north Bengal to Dhaka. If a train service is introduced from New Jalpaiguri, it would largely help both the countries,” said Gouranga Sarkar, a senior resident of Haldibari town.