India, Bangladesh Reopen Haldibari-Chilahati Rail Link After 55 Years

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Haldibari-Chilahati Rail Link: India, Bangladesh Reopen Cross-Border Route After 55 Years

Chilahati in Bangladesh: The Haldibari-Chilahati link will boost economic activity in the region

India-Bangladesh Railway Line: In a significant step to boost railway connectivity between India and Bangladesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina jointly inaugurated a railway link between Haldibari in India and Chilahati in Bangladesh during the India-Bangladesh virtual bilateral summit on Thursday, December 17. With the new Haldibari-Chilahati rail link, the total number of railway lines between the two countries has increased to five. A goods train was flagged off by Md. Nurul Islam Sujan, Railway Minister of Bangladesh, from the Chilahati station which entered India passing through the international border, embarking the new connectivity between the two neighboring countries. 

According to the Indian Railways Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) zone, after partition in 1947, seven railway lines were operational between India and the then East Pakistan up to 1965.  Presently, there are four rail links that are actively operational between India and Bangladesh, namely, Petrapole – Benapole, Gede – Darshana, Singhabad -Rohanpur, and Radhikapur – Birol. The newly inaugurated Haldibari – Chilahati rail link has become the fifth operational railway link between the two countries.
 

In 2016-17, the Railway Board had sanctioned the construction of a new broad-gauge (BG) line of length 3.50 km from the Haldibari station to the Bangladesh border for connecting to Chilahati in Bangladesh in order to reopen the rail link.

Indian Railway authorities have restored the tracks up to the international border from the Haldibari station at a cost of Rs. 82.72 crores. Bangladesh Railways has undertaken the redevelopment and laying of missing tracks on their side from the Chilahati station to the international border. On the Bangladesh side of the rail link, the Chilahati – Parbatipur – Santahar – Darshana existing line is already functioning in broad gauge.

Haldibari-Chilahati Rail Link – Connectivity benefits:

  • The Haldibari – Chilahati route will provide transit connection to Bangladesh from Assam and West Bengal in India. 
  • It will strengthen the rail network access to the main ports, dry ports, as well as land borders to support the growth in regional trade, boosting the economic and social development of the region.
  • Businessmen and common people of both countries will be able to reap the benefits of both goods and passenger train services, once all trains are planned for operations on the route.
  • With the new railway line, people from Bangladesh will be able to visit tourist attractions such as Darjeeling, Sikkim, Dooars in India.
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Haldibari-Chilahati Rail Link: Historical Significance

  • The Haldibari – Chilahati rail link was operational till the year 1965. It was part of the broad gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri during the partition.
  • The trains traveling to Assam and North Bengal continued to travel through the then East Pakistan territory even after partition. A train from Sealdah to Siliguri used to enter the East Pakistan territory from Darshana and would exit through the Haldibari – Chilahati link.  
  • However, the war of 1965 cut off all the railway links between India and the then East Pakistan.
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