Hasina flags off new train from Khulna to Kolkata
November 09 2017 08:56 PM
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina waves the Bangladeshi flag along with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India’s West Bengal state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, during a videoconference yesterday.

By Mizan Rahman/Dhaka

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said yesterday Bangladesh wants to co-operate with India and other neighbouring countries for creating a ‘zone of peace’ in South Asia where all can live together as good neighbours and pursue constructive policies for the benefit of all.
“We’re ready to co-operate with India and other countries in the immediate neighbourhood for creating a ‘peace area’ in South Asia where we can live together,” she said.
In this regard, the prime minister mentioned the vision of Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who conceived the idea of regional co-operation in 1972.
“This remains our constant guide. I’m sure these connectivity initiatives will further consolidate this vision,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said this while jointly inaugurating the end-to-end immigration and customs of Maitree Express, flagging off the Bandhan Express (Khulna-Kolkata) and launching of train communication on newly-built second Bhairab and second Titas Railway Bridges with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee through a videoconference from Prime Minister’s official residence Ganobhaban. Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also joined the videoconference.
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, PM’s Economic Affairs Adviser Dr Moshiur Rahman, PM’s Political Affairs Adviser HT Imam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam, Indian High Commissioner (Ambassador) to Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla, and secretaries concerned were present at Ganobhaban.
As friendly nations, Hasina said, there has been an excellent relationship between the two countries and continuation of such relationship is very much essential.
With the inaugurations of these services, she said, a new door of relationship has been opened up between the two countries, and this will further strengthened in the future.
Hasina said not only in rail, it is also the expectation of her government to create bonds among the people of the two countries and thus unleash socio-economic development of the two nations.
She said Bangladesh-India relations are in fact setting new high standards of bilateral cooperation in the region and beyond.
“I’m sure we would be having many more similar, happy occasions in the days ahead for the greater benefit of our peoples. I look forward to working with you in our joint endeavour to that end.”
She said today is yet another happy occasion in Bangladesh-India relations.
“On this important day, I’m extremely happy to join you to formally launch the end-to-end immigration and customs of Dhaka-Kolkata Maitree Express and flagging off Khulna-Kolkata Bandhan Express service.”
The prime minister said this is the fulfilment of a long cherished dream as these initiatives along with a new International Passenger Terminal at Chitpur, Kolkata will facilitate comfortable journey between Dhaka-Kolkata and Khulna-Kolkata.
She also wished all the success of the Maitree Express and Bandhan Express services.
“I’m also confident that these services would give a boost to cultural exchanges and tourism between our two peoples. I hope this fine display of mutuality of our relationship will further strengthen our bilateral relations,” she added.
The prime minister said the two countries are having close cooperation in railways sector.
“Since 2009, it has been strengthened further. Our two countries are also working to re-open our pre-1965 rail links for cargo transport between Bangladesh and India.”
“I understand some of these are already functioning and the necessary works for the rest are in progress. I thank the government of India for supporting the railways projects through Line of Credit (LOC) funds.”
Hasina said she was also happy that two railway bridges at Bhairab and Titas are also being inaugurated which will contribute to faster connectivity between Dhaka and Chittagong.
Mentioning that connectivity is one of the main pillars of our cooperation, she said: “Our two countries are not only connected through rail, road, inland water and air, but we are connected through internet bandwidth, coastal routes, power grid.”
She said these new modes of connectivity are adding diverse dimensions to our overall connectivity architecture.
“I’m happy to note that we’ve recently extended our connectivity to space.”
The prime minister also invited Modi, Swaraj and Banerjee to visit Bangladesh.
Later, exchanging views with Railways Minister Mazibul Hoque and cross-section of people at the Bhairab end, Hasina said the second Bhairab Bridge will be named after late president Zillur Rahman.
Taking a swipe at the BNP-Jamaat government for plotting to destroy the rail sector, Hasina said: “I then opposed the move and after assuming office, my government created a separate Ministry for the Railways.”
She also opined that not only rail, but also roadways, waterways, and airways would be required for the country for ensuring overall development.
Bangladesh Railway officials said the two new bridges were built on the Bhairab and Titas rivers as a second track was constructed for simultaneous operation of up and down train services from Dhaka to Chittagong and Sylhet. The train on the route would start ferrying passengers from November 16 and according to the schedule, it would leave Kolkata at 11am (Indian time) and reach Khulna within just four and a half hours.
The two railway bridges were constructed with the Indian Line of Credit (LoC).
The 982.20m long and 7m width Bhairab Railway Bridge was built at a cost of 5.67bn taka, with construction beginning in 2013.
Under an agreement with Bangladesh government, India’s Ircon-Afcons JV constructed the bridge having both dual gauge and broad- gauge facilities.
The new Titas Bridge is 218.7m in length and is 7m wide, built at a cost of 1.61bn taka by another Indian company, Gannon-Flcl Consortium, under a similar agreement with the government. The construction work of the second Titas Bridge started on in 2014 and ended last month.
The up train from Dhaka would move through one bridge, while the down one would use the other while the trains connecting Dhaka with the major two cities could ply without any crossing at Bhairab and Akhaura stations.
The bridges will reduce travel time between Dhaka and Chittagong as well as Dhaka and Sylhet and the railways would be able to run the dual gauge and broad gauge trains at 100kph and 120kph speeds respectively.

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