Dhaka-Kolkata friendship train may start mid-April

March 21st, 2008 - 12:40 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, March 21 (IANS) The long-awaited Dhaka-Kolkata train service may begin on Bengali New Year’s Day mid-April, as the two south Asian neighbours are set to sign a supplementary deal here Sunday on the commissioning of the Maitree (Friendship) Express. The opening of the train was stalled due to India’s security concerns. New Delhi has proposed erection of a fence across ‘no-man’s land’ on the border to prevent intrusion, the New Age newspaper said.

For now, the passenger train service will begin without a box-type temporary fence on no man’s land on the Bangladesh side as it is yet to complete its preparation for fencing, communications ministry officials told New Age Wednesday.

“As we have planned to move our customs and immigration point very near the international border, we need some more time to put up the fence,” a ministry official said.

A decision was clinched when the Bangladesh army chief, General Moeen U. Ahmed, visited India recently.

“If everything goes well, the train will start running on Poila Baishakh (the first day in the month of Baishakah, Bengali New Year’s Day),” Moeen had told media after a visit to the Indian border station Gede Feb 29.

This year, Bengali New Year’s Day is on April 14.

P.N. Verma, member (traffic) of the Indian railways ministry, will lead his country to the talks while A.T.K.M. Ismail, additional secretary of the Bangladesh communications ministry, will lead the home country’s delegation.

On Feb 24, the cabinet approved the Indian proposal for the construction of a box-type temporary fence on no man’s land between the two countries, clearing the way for the commissioning of direct passenger train service.

The proposal will be included in the India-Bangladesh agreement signed earlier, on the basis of which the train service will be in operation till mid-2010.

A train will leave Dhaka for Kolkata every Saturday and travel back to Dhaka on Sunday. Another train will leave Kolkata every Saturday and will go back Sunday. The Maitree Express will have the capacity to carry 308 passengers at a time.

The passenger train will now run on the route between the cantonment station in Dhaka and Chitpur in Kolkata through the Darshana border.

Train fares will be between $8 and $20 depending on the class for the 536 km journey - 416 km in Bangladesh and 120 km in India.

Dhaka and New Delhi signed the agreement on the resumption of direct train service in 2001. A series of meetings have taken place at different levels between the two sides since then.

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