Dhaka-New Jalpaiguri train service to kick off on June 1
New train expected to ease cross-border travel, improve bilateral relations and boost trade and tourism in both Bangladesh and India
Mitali Express, a new cross-border train between Bangladesh and India, is scheduled to start operations on June 1.
The non-stop train service will run between New Jalpaiguri Junction (NJP), one of the largest railway stations in North Bengal in India, and Cantonment Railway Station in Dhaka, to boost bilateral tourism and trade between the two countries.
The new train service will be flagged off virtually by the railways ministers of India and Bangladesh, according to a press release issued by the Indian High Commission.
Bangladesh Railway officials said Bangladeshis would be able to visit Indian tourist hotspots like Darjeeling and Sikkim’s Gangtok using the cross-border train service.
Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan told Dhaka Tribune: “The new cross-border train service between Bangladesh and India through New Jalpaiguri and Dhaka will make travel easier for passengers of both countries.”
“We expect it to improve bilateral relations and boost trade and tourism,” he added.
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An inter-ministerial meeting would be held on Sunday with an aim to make the launch successful, said Md Shariful Islam, senior information officer of the Ministry of Railways.
Covering a distance of 513km, the non-stop passenger train with 10 compartments was scheduled to start operations on March 26 last year, the day of Bangladesh’s golden jubilee of independence, but Covid-19 restrictions foiled the plan.
Now all set to get going, it will be the third passenger train service and the fifth cross-border train between Bangladesh and India.
At present, Maitree Express runs between Kolkata and Dhaka, while Bandhan Express connects Kolkata and Khulna.
However, these services were also disrupted amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The services will resume operations on May 29.
Earlier, on December 17, the rail route between Chilahati in Bangladesh’s Nilphamari and Haldibari in Cooch Behar of West Bengal was opened after a gap of 55 years for goods trains.
The new passenger train service between New Jalpaiguri and Dhaka will use that route.
Boosting trade and tourism
With the launch of Mitali Express, it will be easier for Bangladeshis to visit two popular India tourist spots: Darjeeling and Sikkim.
Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh Secretary Nizam Uddin Bhuiyan told Dhaka Tribune that the cross-border services would ease the movement of tourists between the two countries.
“We are expecting the number of tourists to double once the new train service launches in June, as children and older citizens will be able to travel to Darjeeling and Sikkim because this train service is cozier than buses. Right now mostly young people visit these spots.”
Darjeeling is 85km and Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim, is 125km from NJP.
In the first 84km, the train will travel through India, then continue through Bangladesh for the final 446km.
Besides, people from Sikkim and northern regions of West Bengal will also be able to visit many tourist spots in Dhaka, Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar.
Bangladesh Railway has been implementing a rail link project to connect Cox's Bazar with Chittagong, aimed at attracting Indian tourists via direct trains from Dhaka and North Bengal.
Mitali Express will leave NJP on Sundays and Wednesdays and depart Dhaka Cantonment Station on Mondays and Thursdays.
The train is scheduled to stop at Haldibari and Chilhati stations on the way.
The train will leave NJP at 11:45pm and reach Dhaka at 10:30am.
On the other hand, it will leave Dhaka Cantonment at 9:30pm and reach Jalpaiguri at 7:15am.
According to Bangladesh Railway, the fare from Cantonment Railway Station to NJP station will be Tk4,905.
Passengers who want AC seats will have to pay Tk3,805 and those who opt for the AC chair will have to pay Tk2,705.
Due to the inclusion of Tk500 as travel tax in this fare, passengers will not have to pay any other travel tax.
Besides, the fare between Chilahati and NJP is Tk1,205, which includes Tk500 as travel tax.
Passengers under the age of five will be charged half.
An adult passenger can carry a maximum of 35kg of luggage for free.
According to a railway notification, Mitali Express tickets will be available at Dhaka’s Kamalapur Railway Station, Chittagong Railway Station and Kolkata’s Terminal Station.