Following Pakistan’s continuous objection to India’s proposal of a trans-continent container train run from Kolkata to Istanbul citing security reasons, Indian Railways has changed its tracks and launched its maiden such train to Dhaka on Monday.
The 30-container train carrying food grains and other materials in its maiden run from Kolkata to the west of the Bangabandhu bridge in Dhaka reached today, a press release issued Indian High Commission said.
The Dhaka-Istanbul run was seen as India’s answer to China’s container train run to Europe, trade experts said. Actually India had plan launch a trans Asian container rail network Between Dhaka, Kolkata, Istanbul but Pakistan rejected such proposal.
Sources said container trains are better suited for ferrying machine parts, chemicals, automobiles and consumer durables that involve a shorter transit time.
“If successful, the container service would have an impact on bilateral trade because it will drastically reduce the transportation time,” the press release added. Currently, containers have to be sent by sea, through a roundabout route. It is much slower than what the rail route offers.
Pakistan has refused to agree to container movement through the Attari border since last year citing security concerns. The Indian Railways has been given to understand that under the “present climate” of bilateral relations between the two countries, the matter would have to wait.
According to the deliberations between India and Bangladesh, there is demand for de-oiled cake from Nagpur, sugar from Western Uttar Pradesh, rice and cement from Chhattisgarh, cotton from Ludhiana, clay from Rajasthan and even ready garments from Ahmedabad.
There is a demand for four 50 to 60-container rakes from India to Bangladesh, mostly bound for Chittagong port by rail and then further by sea route.
At present, the Bangabandhu rail bridge is unable to carry the load of these container rakes and there have been talks with Bangladesh for upgrading the service for seamless movement of the shipment till Chittagong port.
At present, bilateral trade is largely road-based, mostly through the congested Petrapole border. The average time a truck takes to reach Bangladesh is a month. More than 20 days are spent in customs clearance at the border.
“The train is expected to reach Bangladesh in 24 hours. Even if it takes two days, we will save ample time,” said railway officials.
The train flagged off at a CONCOR terminus near Majherhat station around 9.30am. It travelled 300km through Sealdah, Naihati, Ranaghat and Gede in India and Darsana and Ishurdi in Bangladesh before reaching Bangabandhu West station, 117km from Dhaka. There was customs check at Ranaghat.