Transport between India and Bangladesh
Transport between India and Bangladesh bears much historical and political significance for both countries, which possessed no ground transport links for 43 years, starting with the partition of Bengal and India in 1947. The Kolkata–Dhaka Bus (1999) and the Dhaka–Agartala Bus (2001) are the primary road links between the two countries; a direct Kolkata-Agartala running through Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh is being developed by both countries. The Maitreyi Express (Friendship Express) was launched to revive a railway link between Kolkata and Dhaka that had been shut for 43 years.
The partition of Bengal and India on August 15, 1947 led to the establishment of the Indian state of West Bengal; East Bengal became a province of the state of Pakistan. The hostile bilateral relations between the two nations made transport links very limited, despite the cultural and commercial links between West and East Bengal. At the outbreak of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the only railway link between Dhaka and Kolkata was shut down, and not resumed until 2008 with the launch of the Maitreyi Express.
After the establishment of Bangladesh following the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, bilateral relations improved considerably, but the two governments moved slowly on implementing a 1980 agreement on improving transport links. In the 1990s, the Indian and Bangladeshi governments collaborated to open bus services between Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal and one of the largest cities in India, and Dhaka, the capital and largest city of Bangladesh. In 2001, another bus service was launched to connect Dhaka with Agartala, the capital of the Indian state of Tripura the second largest city of Northeast India that borders Bangladesh in the east.
Since the 1980s, the Indian and Bangladeshi governments have sought to negotiate an agreement permitting commercial vehicles to pass through Bangladeshi highways in order to reach the northeastern states of India from the west; a concept described in India as the "Bangla Corridor." Such an arrangement is being promoted for its benefit to bilateral commerce, the transport cost reduction for Indian businesses and additional revenue for Bangladesh. In 2006, both governments began working on a proposal to provide a bus service directly connecting Kolkata with Agartala, the capital of the Indian state of Tripura, which borders eastern Bangladesh. As of 2007, travelling distance through Indian territory is an estimated 1,700 km (1,056 mi), but a direct road link via Dhaka would shorten the travelling distance to an estimated 400 km (249 mi), considerably reducing the costs of transport for Indian businesses, which have to transport goods and services through the narrow "Chicken's Neck" territory that is bordered by northern Bangladesh and southern Nepal. However, such an arrangement has been politically sensitive in Bangladesh.
The Govt. sponsored bus service between Kolkata and Dhaka was launched on June 19, 1999; the inaugural bus was received in Dhaka by Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The inauguration took place just months following the launch of the Delhi-Lahore Bus between Pakistan and India. Although receiving lesser media attention and fanfare, the bus service has expanded its services to meet higher demand. While boosting commerce between the two nations, the bus also enables people with families that were divided on either nation with the partition of India, to meet relatives and visit the land of their birth and heritage. The Kolkata-Dhaka bus service has remained uninterrupted, unlike the Delhi-Lahore bus that was suspended during the 2001-2002 India-Pakistan standoff.
The Kolkata-Dhaka Govt. bus is operated jointly by the West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation and the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC is the State Road Transport arm of the Bangladesh Govt.). Buses starting from Dhaka leave on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:00AM and 7:30AM and buses starting from Kolkata are operated on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 5:30AM, 8:30AM, and 12:30PM, with no service from either side on Sunday. The journey is 12.5 hours long, 80 km (50 mi) from India side and 300 km (186 mi) into Bangladesh.
From India to Bangladesh there are services also provided by private comfortable a/c buslines (using Volvo and other luxurious Intercity bus transports) via the Haridaspur / Benapole border post. Private Bangladeshi bus companies Shohagh, Green Line, Shyamoli and others operate daily bus services from Benapole to Dhaka. The normal one-way fare is Bangladeshi Taka 600-800, roughly $8–12.
After years of negotiations, the Dhaka-Agartala bus was agreed upon on July 11, 2001 to connect Bangladesh with its eastern neighbour, the Indian state of Tripura, which has a substantial Bengali population and indigenous peoples who have close commercial and cultural links with the people of eastern Bangladesh. The capital is connected by regular bus services with Bangladesh, it is more convenient for foreign nationals to enter Tripura via Bangladesh with an appropriate visa. Those foreign nationals coming to Dhaka or other cities of Bangladesh may come to Agartala via Akhaura border check post. Similarly, foreign nationals coming to Tripura by other routes could enter Bangladesh via this route. The journey time by road between Dhaka and Agartala is approximately 4 (four) hours.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines, the national carrier of Bangladesh connects Dhaka with Delhi and Kolkata. Private carrier Jet Airways of India also connects Mumbai along with Delhi and Kolkata, while United Airways of Bangladesh, connects Kolkata with Dhaka and Chittagong.
Indian and Bangladeshi governments will start work late by December or early by January 2015 on a new rail link to ease surface transport. India will build a 15-km railway tracks linking Tripura's capital Agartala with Bangladesh's southeastern city of Akhaura, an important railway junction connected to Chittagong port, resource-rich Sylhet and Dhaka. An agreement to implement the railway project was signed between India's former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina during her visit to India in January 2010. Total cost of the proposed project is estimated at Rs.252 crore. The Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) would lay the new railway tracks on both sides of the border. Of the 15 km rail line, five km of tracks fall in the Indian territory. The NFR is now laying tracks to connect Tripura's southern most border town Sabroom, 135 km south of here. From Sabroom, the Chittagong international sea port is just 72 km.
- "Kolkata-Dhaka Moitree Express flagged off". The Times of India (Times Internet Limited). 14 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- Malhotra, Jyoti (June 18, 1999). "Bus maps the route to better Indo-Bangla ties". expressindia.com (The Indian Express). Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- Abdi, SNM (March 13, 2006). "Kolkata-Agartala bus link gets a major push forward". dnaindia.com (Diligent Media Corporation Ltd). Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- "Calcutta-Dhaka passenger bus route soon". expressindia.com (The Indian Express). July 2, 1998. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- Islam, Zahedul. "Bangladesh to Propose New Bus Service Linking Two Indian Cities". redOrbit (redOrbit.com). Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- "International Bus Services". Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- "Dhaka-Calcutta bus service deal". BBC News (BBC). 11 July 2001. Retrieved 2008-04-21.