Kolkata: Mohammed Anwar Hussain fell short of words to explain the hospitality that he received during his visit to India. The 30-year-old Bangladesh national, who had come to the country for the first time as a tourist, spent most of his three days visiting historical monuments.
His journey ended on a memorable note as he was among the first passengers who boarded the Bandhan Express on its first commercial run on 16 November.
Bandhan Express is the first train to connect Kolkata and Khulna (then East Pakistan) after the Barisal Express, which was stopped owing to the India-Pakistan war in 1965.
Anwar hoped the train would play a crucial role in cementing relations between the two countries, “It is really a good initiative taken by the governments of both the countries. I wish them all the luck and hope that the relations would become more cordial. I am really excited to travel in this train and feel fortunate to be part of the first list of passengers.”
Several others share the same sentiments. Sixty-nine-year-old Nisar Ahmed, a Howrah resident, hoped that his first journey in the Bandhan Express would be exciting and comfortable, “I am travelling to Bangladesh for the second time. I had travelled by the Maitree Express during my first visit. The coaches are good and air-conditioned and it seems that the Railways have made good arrangements for the comfort of passengers. The train will help in building more friendly relations with our neighbours,” he said.
Several passengers who boarded the train were hopeful that it will enable more people from Bangladesh to visit India for different purposes, especially for medical issues. “The train is a matter of pride for the people of Bangladesh as it will help more people to reach Kolkata for their work. Importantly, this can include medical treatment as people there depend on India for better health facilities. The train should run regularly,” said Mohammed Nasurddin Makhberia.
The train connecting Kolkata to Khulna was flagged off through video conferencing by the Prime Ministers of both the countries, Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina along with the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on 9 November. Passengers were not allowed at its inaugural run.
The dignitaries had also inaugurated a host of other facilities such as an international rail passenger terminus at Kolkata station, and the second Bhairab and Titas railway bridges in Bangladesh.
This is the second train connecting the two countries from Kolkata after the Maitree Express that runs between Kolkata and Dhaka, covering 375 kilometers. The train operates four times in a week.
Senior railway officials said the Bandhan Express would run once in every week on Thursday. The total seating capacity is 456 people, out of which 312 are AC chair car berths and 144 are First AC berths. The fares have been fixed at Rs 650 and Rs 1000 respectively.
“The train will cover 172 kilometers from Kolkata to Khulna, of which 77 kilometers are in India and 95 kilometers in Bangladesh. It will take nearly five hours (4 hours 50 minutes) to complete the journey, which is shorter than the time taken by the Maitree Express to reach Dhaka” said Basudev Panda, the Divisional Railway Magistrate (DRM) of Sealdah division.
He further said, the train is scheduled to depart from Kolkata terminal at 7.10 a.m and to reach Khulna at around 12 noon on every Thursday. The return journey will start from Khulna at 1.10 p.m and will end at Kolkata at 6.10 p.m on the same day.
Passengers expressed happiness that the end-to-end immigration facility will not only help in reducing the travel time but will also be convenient for passengers, “It is really good that both the governments have decided to introduce end-to-end immigration, clearance facilities and custom checks. It will certainly reduce travel time and would also be convenient for passengers,” said Hazi Ramza Ali, the sixty-six year old businessman and a resident of Ekbalpore in Kolkata who was traveling by the train to attend a marriage ceremony of his relative in the neighbouring country.
On its first commercial run, just 53 passengers boarded the train. Senior railway officials said the numbers would increase as more people come to know about it. Despite the low turnout, passengers were enthusiastic— most of them were seen clicking selfies outside the compartments and uploading them on social media. The train chugged out of the station on its scheduled time.
Updated Date: Nov 24, 2017 19:42:50 IST