Pact inked, Tripura to get rail link to Bangladesh

Ahead of President Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Bangladesh in the first week of March, New Delhi and Dhaka Saturday signed a pact, which will enable Tripura become the second state to have a rail link with Bangladesh. At present, West Bengal is the only state which is connected to Bangladesh.

This will be Mukherjee's first overseas visit as the President, and it is learnt that his visit is expected to take place from March 3 to 5. He may visit a few more places, apart from having official meetings in Dhaka.

The MoU on the Agartala-Akhaura rail link was signed during the visit of External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to Bangladesh for the second Joint Consultative Commission meeting.

Akhaura, prior to 1947, served as a major link between Chittagong port and Tripura. Agartala is now linked on the Indian Railways meter gauge rail network, which will shortly be converted to broad gauge.

The linking of Akhaura and Agartala by rail was suggested in 1974 with the signing of a protocol between Bangladesh and India for cross traffic movement.

It was revived during trade talks between India and Bangladesh in December 1998. In a joint communiqué issued during Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina's visit in January 2010, it was agreed that construction of the Akhaura-Agartala link would be financed by grant from India.

The new line would be from Agartala to Gangasagar in Bangladesh. This would involve a double line from Gangasagar to Akhaura and additional loop lines at two stations in Bangladesh — Gangasagar and Imambari.

Sources said opening of this rail link would help in promoting trade and people-to-people contacts across the border. It will provide access to Tripura through Bangladesh and other north-eastern states of India and will open up new market in these states for goods manufactured in Bangladesh. The rail link will supplement the riverine protocol routes for enhanced connectivity between the two countries.

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