Bangladesh and India are going to pilot the container train service between Dhaka and Kolkata next month to assess the feasibility of initiating the full-pledged service on commercial basis.
The decision was made at an inter-governmental railway meeting between the two countries held in New Delhi in September 13-15 to facilitate movement of export-import goods through the railway, a member of the Bangladesh delegation told New Age on Sunday.
The meeting also decided to start the new passenger train service between Khulna and Kolkata in full-fledged from November 16, he said.
The customs and immigration formalities for the train service will be conducted at Kolkata terminal for India and at Benapole for Bangladesh, he said, adding that the train might be named either Bandhan Express or Sampreeti Express.
On the other hand, immigration and customs checks of passengers of Maitree Express will be done only at originating and terminating stations in Dhaka and Kolkata from November 3.
The meeting also agreed to raise the fares of Maitree Express.
Bangladesh Railways additional director general (operation) Md Habibur Rahman led the Bangladesh delegation consisting of representatives from the foreign ministry, the National Board of Revenue and Security Service Division of the home ministry.
Container train service between Dhaka and Kolkata is expected to substantially boost trade and commerce between the two countries, the official said.
Transportation of import and export goods through container train is comparatively cheaper than that of road and waterways.
Currently, the largest portion of more than $6.6 billion bilateral trade is carried out through land routes, mostly through Benapole-Petrapole border which is costly, time consuming and troublesome for traders.
Trucks loaded with import and export goods have to wait many days at land ports for completing customs and port procedures.
Officials concerned said that railway ministry had already formed a committee for the running of this container service and the committee is expected to submit its report shortly.
At the meeting, both the sides agreed that Container Corporation of India will submit a draft standard operational procedure for running the service within a week and a trial run will be undertaken in October, they said.
Necessary rules and procedures including customs procedures will be formulated before commencement of regular movement o the container train service, the officials added.
Bilateral trade between the two countries crossed $6.6 billion in the last fiscal year 2016-2017 and the trade gap is highly against Bangladesh.
Different studies show that traders of the two countries can reduce the transportation cost at least by 30 per cent if goods are transported through railway containers.
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