India, Bangladesh to resume train services MondayApril 12th, 2008 - 12:19 am ICT by admin
New Delhi/Kolkata, April 11 (IANS) Thousands queued up since morning in Kolkata for tickets for the Moitree (Friendship) Express that begins its run Monday, the Bengali New Year’s Day, as India and Bangladesh resume a passenger train service after a hiatus of over four decades. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will flag off the Dhaka-bound Moitree Express from Kolkata on Poila Baisakh.
West Bengal Governor Gopal Gandhi, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and many senior cabinet ministers will be among those attending the launch ceremony of the cross-border train.
Sameer Goswami, Eastern Railway spokesperson, told IANS in Kolkata: “The excitement of people can be estimated by the fact that they are standing in line for tickets since 5 a.m. There are already 3,000-4,000 people in the queue.”
“Tickets are available at a Eastern Railway ticket-booking counter in Fairly Place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Friday onwards. People will get tickets on showing their passport and visa. Fares are kept at $8 and $20. Initially, it was decided passengers would get tickets in exchange of dollars only. But now they can also buy tickets in rupees,” he said.
The train will run every weekend between Chitpur Station in Kolkata and Cantonment Station in Dhaka through the Darshana border.
The 538-km journey will cover 418 km in Bangladesh and 120 km in India. The train from Dhaka will have a capacity of 418 passengers while that from Kolkata will accommodate 366.
The train seeks to connect thousands of people on both sides of the India-Bangladesh border who have relatives on the other side.
India and Bangladesh signed an accord July 12, 2001, to resume a direct train service between Dhaka and Kolkata. But it was delayed due to differences over security arrangements. The proposal was revived during Mukherjee’s visit to Dhaka in February last year.
The train will run twice a week - Saturday and Sunday, external affairs ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna told reporters in New Delhi.
A one-way ticket is priced between $8 and $20 for the 538-km journey.
Passengers aboard the train will be feted with a gala cultural show in Dhaka in the evening.
The two sides have agreed to put in place stringent security measures, including a “box-type” fence along the railway’s passage through the no-man’s land between Bangladesh and India to prevent smuggling or illegal migration.
Passenger train services between the two countries were suspended after a war between India and Pakistan in 1965, when Bangladesh was the eastern province of Pakistan. It became independent in 1971.
“The depth of political relations between our two countries is now as deep as it should be,” Mukherjee told Bangladesh daily Prothom Alo in an interview ahead of the launch of the train.
Mukherjee lauded the role of the interim government in emergency-ruled Bangladesh for its efforts to strengthen ties with India.