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18 July 2024

Rajshahi-Kolkata train service set to resume after 77 years

Messenger Online

Published: 17:28, 24 June 2024

Rajshahi-Kolkata train service set to resume after 77 years

Photo: Collected 

The train service between Rajshahi and Kolkata is set to resume after a 77-year hiatus. This announcement was made following a meeting between the prime ministers of Bangladesh and India on Saturday last.

 In addition to sparking hope among Rajshahi people, the train services are expected to boost the economy of Rajshahi significantly coupled with alleviating the travel difficulties faced by people.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi, where they discussed several bilateral initiatives. Among the 13 initiatives announced, the revival of the Rajshahi-Kolkata train service stood out.

Since the announcement, people from various professions in these region believe that the new train service will not only facilitate travel for the northern region, including Rajshahi, but also create a new communication link with India.

Mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation AHM Khairuzzaman Liton said the Rajshahi-Kolkata train will enhance Rajshahi's importance in communications with India, Nepal, and Bhutan, potentially turning Rajshahi into a hub for trade and commerce.

It, furthermore, will alleviate the travel difficulties faced by people from the Rajshahi region travelling to India.

Mayor Liton, who is also presidium member of Bangladesh Awami League, said Rajshahi was connected to Kolkata via rail through Malda and Murshidabad in India.

However, this connection ceased following the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.

Despite the interruption, a significant number of people from the Rajshahi region continue to travel to India for various purposes, such as medical treatment and tourism.

The Rajshahi-Kolkata train has always been considered crucial. Thus, after the establishment of the Dhaka-Kolkata and Khulna-Kolkata routes, the Rajshahi-Kolkata train has gained even more significance.

At present, there is only a cargo train connection with India through the Rohanpur railway port in Gomastapur upazila of Chapainawabganj district, which has led to renovations of railways in both countries.

Sources closed to West Zone of Bangladesh Railway said the Rajshahi-Kolkata train will traverse through Rohanpur border in Chapainawabganj, then through Singabad, Malda, Farakka, Katwa, and Khagraghat in India to reach Howrah station in Kolkata.

This route covers a distance of 425km and takes approximately 11 hours. On the contrary, a 215-kilometer route through the Gede border would take about five and a half hours.

The demand for a Rajshahi-Kolkata train has been long standing among the local population.

The mayor said the proposal was one of his mayoral election pledges and its fulfillment has been met with widespread excitement in Rajshahi following the announcement made after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.

Currently, hundreds of patients from Rajshahi travel to India for medical treatment daily, and many people visit West Bengal for family reasons. Traders involved in import-export also frequently travel to Kolkata and other states.

The introduction of a direct train service will significantly make these journey easy.

Consequently, prominent figures in Rajshahi have called for the swift commencement of this promised service.

Business, social, and political leaders have expressed their gratitude to Mayor Khairuzzaman Liton for fulfilling his election promise.

Liton has long been advocating for the Rajshahi-Kolkata train service making it a key point in his 2018 and 2023 election manifestos.

He has consistently pressed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the railway minister for this service, including a recent request on May 10, 2024, during Railway Minister Zillul Hakim's visit to Rajshahi.

Khairuzzaman Liton has worked tirelessly to make this train service a reality, and the community is grateful to him.

He mentioned that launching direct train and air links from Rajshahi to Kolkata was one of his election promises.

Persistent efforts have finally paid off with the upcoming train service, which will greatly benefit the people of Rajshahi and the northern region. He also plans to work towards starting a direct flight from Rajshahi to Kolkata in the future.

Mayor Liton added that the current airport in Rajshahi could handle passenger flights to Kolkata.

With plans to upgrade the airport for uranium imports for the Rooppur nuclear power plant, it will soon meet international standards, allowing for cargo and all types of passenger flights to and from India.

Jamat Khan, general secretary of the Rajshahi Raksha Sangram Parishad, expressed his gratitude to the prime minister and Rajshahi mayor for their efforts in initiating the train service.

He highlighted the immense benefit it would bring, particularly for patients travelling to India for treatment, adding that the train would be extremely useful and expressing overall happiness with the decision.

President of Rajshahi Chamber of Commerce and Industries Masudur Rahman noted that traveling to India via Chuadanga's Darshana or Jessore's Benapole land ports requires taking the Khulna-bound train from Rajshahi, which is often overcrowded with passengers heading to India, making tickets scarce.

The introduction of a direct train to Kolkata will be highly beneficial, especially for patients and businesspeople. Importers and exporters will find it easier to travel through land ports, enhancing communication and trade with India.

Mizanur Rahman, founder of the tourist organization Tour Moorland in Rajshahi, highlighted that tourism would also benefit from the new train service.

He mentioned that travel to India is often for medical, familial, business, and tourism purposes, and the new train will facilitate easier travel for all these reasons.