Historic India–Bangladesh rail line reopens for 1st time since 1965 Indo-Pak War

After a gap of 55 years, the Haldibari–Chilahati train line that connected India and Bangladesh till 1965 was reopened yesterday to link the two countries once again. Originally part of the British-era Indian Railways, the historic route was relaunched to promote regional trade and tourism, and will connect West Bengal, Assam and Bangladesh.

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The Haldibari railway station is in West Bengal’s northern Cooch Behar district (approx. 16 hours from Kolkata by road), while the Chilahati station lies in the Nilphamari district of Bangladesh. Both border stations were defunct until yesterday, till a goods train made the maiden journey. Passenger trains will soon be launched on this route.

The international rail link was inaugurated at a virtual summit hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina:

Why is this rail line important?

India originally had 7 rail links with the erstwhile East Pakistan, including the Haldibari–Chilahati line. The number dropped to 4 operational rail links by 2020, but the new route now raises it to 5. 

The cross-border route: orange is northern Bengal, green is Bangladesh. Credit: @RailMinIndia/Twitter

The cross-border route: orange is northern Bengal, green is Bangladesh. Credit: @RailMinIndia/Twitter

The Indian Railways has spent 82.72 crores to restore the old train tracks up to the Bangladesh border. The new link will widen access to the main ports, dry ports and land borders in both countries, leading to social development. Businesspeople and the common man are expected to profit from goods and passenger traffic. 

It should also boost tourism in India, as Bangladeshi visitors will be able to travel to iconic hill destinations like Darjeeling, Sikkim and the Dooars, or continue further onto Nepal and Bhutan.

Feature image credit: @RailMinIndia/Twitter

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