The railway line from Haldibari in Cooch Behar to Chilahati in northern Bangladesh had been defunct since rail links between India and then East Pakistan were snapped in 1965
After a long gap of 55 years, the railway link connecting Bangladesh’s Chilahati to Haldibari, West Bengal, India, has been reopened with the aim of further promoting transport and connectivity between the two neighbouring countries.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi jointly inaugurated the rail link through video conferencing –shown on a big screen for spectators – at around 11:30am on Thursday.
The railway line from Haldibari in Cooch Behar to Chilahati in northern Bangladesh had been defunct since rail links between India and erstwhile East Pakistan were snapped in 1965.
Marking the occasion, Nilphamari's Chilahati Railway Station wore a festive look as thousands gathered to celebrate the historic revival.
Following the official inauguration, a freight train carrying goods in a total of 32 wagons left Chilahati Railway Station at 12:48pm for India.
Railways Minister Md Nurul Islam Sujan formally inaugurated the train service by blowing a whistle and waving a green flag.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Piarul Islam, 69, of East Bhogdaburi village in Domar upazila, said: "I saw trains operating on this rail route when I was a child. At the time many people used to travel from Bangladesh to different parts of India via trains.
“I have come here to witness this historic event.”
Atiyar Rahman, 70, of Gosaiganj village of the same upazila, walked 3km on foot to be part of the celebrations surrounding the revival of the rail link.
Expressing happiness while enjoying the sight of the freight train leaving Bangladesh for India, he said: “I used to travel to my uncle’s home in India from this station before. When train services got suspended, I also stopped visiting my relatives in the neighbouring country.
“Now as the train link has reopened, I may travel again.”
He demanded that passenger trains also be reopened very soon.
The distance between Haldibari Railway Station and the international border is 4.5km while that from Chilahati till zero point is around 7.5km.
Both Haldibari and Chilahati stations were on the old broad gauge railway route between Siliguri and Kolkata that went through areas in present-day Bangladesh.