Bangladesh receives 10 locomotives from India

Bangladesh receives 10 locomotives from India

Bangladesh on Monday received 10 broad gauge locomotives from India in another move of raising railway cooperation in connectivity front between the two neighbouring countries sharing more than 4000 km border, fifth-longest land border in the world.

The Indian government provided the locomotives under its grant assistance programme in line with the commitment by New Delhi during prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India last October under Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s 'neighbourhood first' policy.

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The locomotives were handed at Darshana-Gede interchange point while foreign minister AK Momen and railway minister Md. Nurul Islam Sujon joined from Dhaka and Indian external affairs minister S Jaiahshankar and railway minister Piyush Goyal joined from Delhi at a virtual handover ceremony.

“This would help bring our two peoples even closer….India-Bangladesh relationship is rock solid,” said Momen at the handing-over ceremony.

He said Dhaka believes “connectivity is productivity” while prime minister Sheikh Hasina has been trying to “expand our connectivity in roads, rail, river routes and heart to heart with our neighbours”.

He said connectivity in the region will unpack numerous opportunities for the people of South Asia including Bangladesh and India as the prospect remains limitless. “We are happy that India partners with Bangladesh in this endeavour,” he added.

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In fact, he said robust safe railway connectivity with lower unit costs is an enabler of economic growth, a platform for uniform development and a catalyst for national integration.

Saying that “We are indeed enjoying the best of relations (with India)”, Momen mentioned, this week, for the first time, 50 containers loaded with FMCG cargoes and fabrics arrived in Bangladesh from India through Benapole-Petrapole rail link.

In fact, he said robust safe railway connectivity with lower unit costs is an enabler of economic growth, a platform for uniform development and a catalyst for national integration.

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“By handing over the locomotives, we have been able to fulfill an important commitment made during the visit of prime minister Sheikh Hasina to India last October,” said Jaishankar.

The Indian external affairs minister said India and Bangladesh continue to script a relationship of ‘Sonali Addhyae (golden chapter)” guided by the progressive visions of prime ministers Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina.

“Very few countries in the world share such close fraternal ties as those of ours (India and Bangladesh), our partnership today stands out as a role model in the region … we are indeed happy to witness the transformative growth in Bangladesh,” he said.

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Jaishankar expressed his happiness that the COVID pandemic had not slowed down the pace of bilateral cooperation and conveyed that he looked forward to more such milestones in the ongoing historic Mujib Year, marking the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Foreign secretaries of Bangladesh and India Masud Bin Momen and Harsh Vardhan Shringla respectively and Bangladesh high commissioner to India Muhammad Imran and Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh Ms. Riva Ganguly Das also joined the virtual ceremony.

All the ten broad gauge locomotives Indian Railway handed over to Bangladesh Railway (BR) were commissioned between September 2012 and December 2015, said officials, BR official sources said.

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With 72 per cent locomotives of BR already crossing their economic life, the government took initiatives last year to hire locomotives from India for the first time to help them overcome the crisis, it added.

According to BR documents from May last year, it had 178 MG locomotives, of which 139 have crossed their 20-year economic life.

Recently, India and Bangladesh have stepped up their rail cooperation in mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as trade via land border faced disruptions.

Both sides saw the highest ever exchange of freight trains in the month of June as a total of 103 freight trains were utilized for carrying essential commodities and raw materials.

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Bangladesh and India have a total of eight railway interchange points, of which 4 are now functioning – Petrapole (India) – Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India) – Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India)-Rohanpur (Bangladesh), Radhikapur (India)–Birol (Bangladesh).

Two passenger trains – Bandhan Express [Kolkata-Khulna] (2 days/week) and Maitree Express [Kolkata-Dhaka] (5 days/ week) operate between the two countries, however their movement at the moment has been temporarily suspended due to COVID pandemic.

Of those 4 non-operational points, Chilahati-Haldibari route – currently being revamped by the two countries – will establish rail connectivity with Bhutan through India while Darshana-Khulna-Mongla rail link will provide the shortest path to connect Nepal, Bhutan and North West India.

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Railway projects under implementation using LoC assistance include- Kulaura-Shahbazpur railway line at a cost of US$ 78 million likely to be completed by end of this year while Khulna-Mongla railway line project along with the bridge worth USD 389 million likely to be completed by June next year.

Indian government sources said a total of 17 railway sector projects have been included in LoC assistance extended by India to Bangladesh, with a commitment of US$ 2.44 billion.

Of these 17 railway sector projects, 9 have been successfully completed including supply of BG/MG locomotives, flat wagons, railway bridges and signaling equipment, among others.

Railway projects under implementation using LoC assistance include- Kulaura-Shahbazpur railway line at a cost of US$ 78 million likely to be completed by end of this year while Khulna-Mongla railway line project along with the bridge worth USD 389 million likely to be completed by June next year.

Three other projects at various stages of implementation pertain to double line track, a conversion of meter gauge line to dual gauge line and a new dual gauge rail line.

Besides, cross border rail link of approximately 12 Kms is being built under Grant-in-Aid between Agartala and Akhaura town on the Dhaka-Chittagong trunk line, to be completed by March 2021 expecting to further enhance freight and passenger connectivity between India and north eastern states.