New Delhi, Sep 18 (ANI): Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge on Wednesday said Indian and Bangladesh Railways already have a mature and professional relationship spreading over several decades.
"This tradition, I am sure, will help us in arriving at decisions which are of mutual benefit," said Kharge in his speech, while addressing a delegation of visiting journalists from Bangladesh who called on him here.
"During the last few years, there have been significant developments in technology and management practices on both the Railways. It will be our endeavour that the benefits of these developments accrue to our users," he added.
Kharge said the Governments of India and Bangladesh have recently signed the Memorandum of Understanding on February 16, 2013 in Dhaka for construction of new rail link between Akhaura (Bangladesh) and Agartala (India).
"One bi-weekly passenger train, Maitree Express, runs between Kolkata and Dhaka Cantonment. Its transit time has been reduced from 12 hours to 101/2 hours and its days of running have been changed to suit the travelling public from both ends. Its popularity is gradually increasing. The increasing popularity of Maitree Express shows the deep relationship between the people of the two countries," he added.
Kharge said improving the services and increasing its frequency also remains an important aspect.
"Measures are being taken to improve the travel experience in Maitree Express. One such initiative recently undertaken is to provide sitting arrangements to the passengers at Gede station while waiting for immigration and customs checks, thereafter passengers are permitted to entrain as soon as they finish their checks," said Kharge.
"Steps are being taken to introduce the system of booking return tickets by Maitree Express," he added.
Kharge said that every year in February a pilgrim special train is run from Rajbari (Bangladesh) to Midnapore (India) for the pilgrims to attend the Urs Sharif at Midnapore.
"Anjuman-E-Quaderia/Bangladesh organizes this special train. The train is run by both Bangladesh and Indian Railways," he added.
Kharge said the operation of freight trains between the two countries is regulated by the fundamental and subsidiary rules.
"Wagons of Indian Railways are used for the freight traffic. About 0.2 million metric ton of cargo is moved by rail per annum. 99 percent of the cargo moved by rail is Bangladesh imports from India. The major commodities are gypsum, stone, de-oiled cake, onions, sugar, maize and food grain," he added.
Kharge said that to improve the trade through railways, the two Railways are jointly working towards containerization of cargo and setting up suitable rail linked Inland Container Depots to handle this cargo.
"A Joint Team has been set up comprising of Officials of Container Corporation of India, Bangladesh Railway and Indian High Commission to study all aspects of moving container trains between the two countries," he said.
Kharge said that all the Railway-related issues between the two countries are discussed in the high level meeting called Inter-Governmental Railway Meeting (IGRM) which is held alternately in New Delhi and Dhaka every year.
"Besides this, meetings are also held at zonal and divisional levels to address local issues," he added.
Kharge further said, "Of the 16 projects that have been included in the USD 800 million Indian Line of Credit to Bangladesh, 13 are railway projects amounting to USD 687.4 million. Projects include procurement of rolling stock and development of infrastructure. Railway projects usually have long gestation periods."
"However, three projects have already been completed. These include supply of diesel locomotives from Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi and broad gauge and meter gauge tank wagons from private manufacturers," he added.
Kharge said Bangladesh Railway has great potential to develop into the lifeline of transportation system of Bangladesh.
"Freight traffic is the breadwinner of any railway. Bangladesh Railway may take measures to increase its freight traffic. Unification of gauge has helped Indian Railways reach the stage where more than one billion metric tons of freight is carried per annum. Bangladesh Railway could also plan in this direction. Containerization is the future of all trade," said Kharge.
"At present the container train movement is limited to the eastern part of Bangladesh Railway. Container train services must be made available across the country. Some rail linked Inland Container Depots may be set up in the Western part of Bangladesh Railway to facilitate bilateral trade," he added.
Kharge further said that with the steadily growing economy it is imperative that railways are developed in Bangladesh to help sustain that growth.
"Indian Railway is eager to partner the progress of Bangladesh Railway," he added.
The Railways Minister said two of the Public Sector Undertakings of his ministry, namely, IRCON International Limited and RITES Limited, are closely associated with Bangladesh Railways.
"IRCON'S Association with Bangladesh Railway is in the field of Project Execution since 1982. IRCON is working closely with Bangladesh Railways and Indian High Commission in Dhaka for the last 2 years in Developing and Formulating railway projects under the US$ 800 Million Line of Credit extended to Bangladesh by India," said Kharge.
"Few important projects in Bangladesh under execution / finalization by IRCON are, Construction of 2nd Bhairab Railway Bridges with Approach Rail lines and Construction of Akhaura-Agartala Rail link," he added.
Kharge said RITES association with Bangladesh Railway is in field of supply of Locomotives, maintenance of Rolling Stock and training of Bangladesh Rail Personnel since 1984.
"The RITES have completed many projects in the past. Presently, RITES is executing two projects, namely Procurement of 26 BG Diesel Locomotives with spares and training and Feasibility Report of New Coach Manufacturing Unit at Saidpur Workshop," he added.
The Railways Minister also expressed confidence that the deliberations today will further help in improving trade, commerce and people to people contact between the two countries.
"I look forward to a free, constructive and very fruitful interaction which will help in meeting the expectations of both the countries," he said. (ANI)