The Haldibari-Chilahati rail route was revived after 56 years when a goods train chugged into Bangladesh on Sunday over the line that was abandoned in 1965 following the Indo-Pak war. Bangladesh was East Pakistan then.
The train’s first run, however, was not smooth. It was held up at Haldibari station for nearly five hours owing to inadequate paperwork. The engine pulled 40 wagons carrying 2,400 metric tons of stone chips across the border at 4.36pm only after the Customs cleared the train following paperwork revision. The train was supposed to enter Bangladesh at 11.30am. The goods will be unloaded at Parbatipur in the neighbouring country.
Bhutan has shown keen interest in using this route to export materials to Bangladesh.
The revived route was inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, on December 17 last year. The countries had also decided to run passenger trains from March this year. But the Covid pandemic spike postponed the launch.
If everything goes right, passenger trains will start running on this route from December, sources said.
“We are eagerly waiting for trains to run between NJP (New Jalpaiguri) and Sealdah via this route. This, we believe, will open new opportunities for people of this region and uplift socioeconomic condition,” said Biswajit Sarkar, secretary of Haldibari Byabsayee Samiti.