PM Modi flags off Kolkata-Khulna Bandhan Express with Sheikh Hasina, Mamata

Modi and Hasina will jointly launch a cross-country passenger train service today

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Thursday launched a new passenger train service between Khulna and Kolkata through a video conference, reports UNB. An overwhelmed Bangladeshi PM said, "The inauguration of the train services and the two bridges marked a new episode in the relationship of both the countries".

India's West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee also joined the inauguration ceremony online. "I am glad that we are inaugurating projects that will go a long way in improving connectivity between our two countries", Modi said, after the launch.

PM Hasina said that Bangladesh wants collaborative engagements with India and other neighbours for regional peace, prosperity and benefit of the people in South Asia.

"The most important dimension of the connectivity is the people-to-people linkage", Prime Minister Modi said. "Development and connectivity are interconnected and we have taken steps to strengthen the decades-old historical links specially between the people of West Bengal and Bangladesh", PM Modi said.

Calling it a historic day, Mamata Banerjee said that with the initiation of the new train service the bonding between the two countries will become further stronger. Bandhan Express is a fully air-conditioned passenger train which will run weekly every Thursday between Kolkata and the industrial town of Bangladesh-Khulna.

She said Bangladesh-India relations are in fact setting new high standards of bilateral cooperation in the region and beyond.

Modi was joined by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi, while Hasina was joined by Bangladesh Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam in Dhaka.

PM Hasina also invited them to visit Bangladesh.

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"The relations between the two countries will strengthen in the future", she said.

Bangladesh and India are working to re-open pre-1965 rail links for freight transport, Hasina added.

Under an agreement with Bangladesh government, India's Ircon-Afcons JV constructed the bridge having both dual gauge and broad- gauge facilities.

The Bandhan Express will start ferrying passengers from November 16 onwards.

The two railway bridges have been built at a cost of $100 million, which has been met from India's $8 billion soft loan to Bangladesh.

Apart from Kolkata and Khulna, there will be two stops - Petrapole (in India) for around 10 minutes and Benapole (in Bangladesh) for around 15 minutes.

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.

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