Maitree Express flagged off, restores India-Bangladesh rail link

April 14th, 2008 - 1:06 pm ICT by admin  

Kolkata, April 14 (IANS) Evoking nostalgia and bonhomie, the much-awaited India-Bangladesh Maitree (Friendship) Express chugged out Monday from the railway station here, creating history as the inaugural run restored rail links between the two neighbours after 43 long years. The train will run twice a week, on Saturday and Sunday, connecting Kolkata with Dhaka Cantonment station with a passenger capacity of 368 in Indian rake and 418 in Bangladesh rake at a time.

“The flagging off of this train is a historic event for Indian Railways. It marks the beginning of a new chapter in the bilateral relationship between the two neighbouring countries - India and Bangladesh,” Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav said at the inauguration ceremony.

He said the train service would not only connect both the countries but would also strengthen Indo-Bangladesh cultural ties.

The 538 km journey through the Darshana border, covering 418 km in Bangladesh and 120 km in India, will take about 13 to 14 hours.

The bi-weekly train will leave Kolkata every Saturday and Sunday at 7.10 a.m. and reach Dhaka on same day at 8.30 p.m. as per Bangladesh Standard Time (BST).

Tickets, priced at $8 and $20, can be bought with Indian currency as well.

“I am extremely excited to be one of the passengers of this train. I left my country (Bangladesh) in 1964 and came to Kolkata with my parents. After 44 years I am going back to my land where I was born and raised,” Rangalal Chowdhury told IANS.

“I know my house will not be there in Bangladesh now but I will definitely visit my native place in Dhaka to experience the change that has taken place there,” he added.

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.

Santosh Bosak, another passenger of the Maitree Express, said: “I am going to Bangladesh with my family for the first time. My parents came to India during the partition. One of my sisters is still there at Sreerajganj and I will stay with her for the next couple of days.”

“I am just running out of words. I don’t know how to express my feelings. I am really getting nostalgic about Bangladesh,” he added.

Every year almost 600,000 Bangladeshis come to India. In comparison, only 80,000-90,000 Indians go to Bangladesh.

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