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Dhaka Tribune

India agrees on Khulna-Kolkata direct train

Update : 21 Apr 2014, 09:08 PM

Unlike in the past, the Indian authorities have agreed, in principle, to introduce a second direct passenger train between Bangladesh and the West Bengal capital Kolkata as the first train, Maitree Express, has gained huge popularity.

The Indian railway officials attending the India-Bangladesh Inter-Governmental Railway Meeting (IGRM) in Dhaka yesterday told the home side that the proposed train between Khulna and Kolkata could be operated through the Darshana-Gede point.

AK Maitra, chief interlocutor of the Indian side, told the meeting that they cannot accommodate a second Maitree Express via the Khulna-Benapole-Bongaon-Sealdah route, which has a high frequency of trains.

The Bangladesh Railway proposed the route in 2011 as passengers from the south-western and south-central districts must come to Dhaka to avail the Maitree Express train.

Head of the Bangladesh side Shah Zahirul Islam, the additional director general (operation), and his officials requested India to reconsider the decision as the passengers must travel an additional 72 kilometres via the Darshana-Gede route.

An official from Bangladesh said the passengers would be able to reach Kolkata by the time they arrive at Darshana, stating, “It will be a useless additional distance to travel.”

The distance between Khulna and Kolkata via the Benapole-Bongaon is 175km (around four hours) while travel via the Darshana-Gede would be 247km (around six hours).

The first Maitree Express train takes 10 hours and 25 minutes to run between Dhaka and Kolkata (396km).

The Indian delegation, led by Additional Member (traffic) of the Railway Board AK Maitra, met the Bangladesh Railway officials at the Prime Minister's Office yesterday on possible cooperation between the two state agencies.

The two sides, however, agreed to continue the discussion. The IGRM will end tomorrow.

“They [Indian side] are positive about it. The discussion has been going on about the train between Khulna and Kolkata. Let it be conclusive,” Mazibul Hoque, the railway minister, told the Dhaka Tribune.

He said the proposed train would facilitate smooth movement of the people travelling between the countries.

Railway officials said Bangladesh, in 2011, proposed for the first time the launching of the second Maitree Express between Khulna and Kolkata. It also proposed turning the existing local train between Khulna and Benapole into the second Maitree Express.

However, the response from the Indian side was lukewarm at that time.

On April 14, 2008 the military-backed interim government started the Maitree Express between Dhaka and Kolkata, a service that was stopped during the India-Pakistan war in 1965.

In the first two years, the train ran with 50-70 passengers, raising questions about the justification of its operation. During the last two years, it has been running at full capacity. The Maitree Express train has 326 seats in the Bangladesh train and 388 seats in the Indian one. The Bangladeshi train starts from the Dhaka Cantonment Station at 8:10am (BST) on Fridays and returns the next day. The Indian train starts from Kolkata (Chitpur) Station at 7:10am (IST) on Tuesdays and goes back to Kolkata on Wednesdays.

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