Modi, Hasina, Mamata flag-off Kolkata-Khulna friendship train

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina, today, jointly flagged off the Khulna-Kolkata train service and opened two bridges on railway routes connecting Dhaka with Sylhet and Chittagong.

Bandhan Express, a fully air-conditioned weekly passenger train, will run between the two cities on Thursday. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also described it as a historic day for both the countries. "The people-to-people link is the important aspect of connectivity between two nations", added the prime minister.

"The bridges worth $ 100 million will improve railway connectivity in Bangladesh", Mr Modi said.

"We want to cooperate with India and other countries in the immediate neighbourhood for creating an area of peace in South Asia", she said. She expressed happiness that the countries recently extended their connectivity to space.

The Bandhan Express, meaning a train of bond, is the second cross-border passenger rail service between the two neighbouring countries, the first being Moitree Express that runs between Bangladesh capital Dhaka and Kolkata.

"India takes pride in being a development partner of Bangladesh".

Prime Minister Hasina said Bangladesh-India had set new high standards of bilateral cooperation which was essential for regional development.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was present at the New Delhi office while Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, PM Hasina's Political Affairs Advisor HT Imam, and Economic Affairs Advisor Dr Moshiur Rahman, were present at the Hasina's official Ganobhaban residence.

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

"I hope this fine display of mutuality of our relationship will further strengthen our bilateral relations".

The 982.20m long and 7m width Bhairab Railway Bridge was built at a cost of 5.67bn taka, with construction beginning in 2013.

She said it was yet another happy occasion in Bangladesh-India relations.

The bridge over the Titas was built by Indian company Gammon-Flcl Consortium. When the Barisal Express, which used to ferry passengers till 1965, was shut down, passengers were inconvenienced.

"The rail network, which has been constructed with nearly $100 million, will enhance connectivity in a big way between India and Bangladesh".

The Bandhan Express is scheduled to ply the route every Thursday.

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.

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