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India-Bangladesh train to resume in April - official

DHAKA (Reuters) - Passenger trains are expected to start rolling again between Bangladesh and India around the end of April, resuming a passengers service suspended four decades ago, a senior communication ministry official said on Monday.

An Indian train enters Dhaka's cantonment rail station July 8, 2007. REUTERS/Rafiqur Rahman

“The last hurdle to reopening the passenger service between Dhaka and Kolkata has been removed,” said Mahbubur Rahman, secretary of the ministry.

He said Dhaka had now accepted an Indian demand that a “box-type” fence would be constructed along the railway’s passage through the no-man’s land between Bangladesh and India to ensure security and stop smuggling or illegal migration.

“Services now look set to resume around the end of April,” he told Reuters.

Thousands of people on both sides of the India-Bangladesh border have relatives on the other side, and many Bangladeshis also travel to Kolkata, capital of India’s West Bengal state, and other Indian cities to seek medical treatment, officials said.

Passenger train services between the two countries were suspended after a war between India and Pakistan in 1965, when Bangladesh was the eastern province of Pakistan. Bangladesh became an independent country in 1971.

Bangladesh and India signed a deal on July 12, 2001 to resume a direct train service between Dhaka and Kolkata, but since then India had been insisting on the construction of a 150-metre security cage, Mahbubur said.

As Bangladesh initially opposed the proposal, it delayed resumption of the service.

“Now the visit to India by students, patients, businessmen and tourists will be cheaper and easier,” Mahbubur said.

Goods trains already run between the two countries. Bangladesh annually imports about $2 billion worth of products from India, and earns nearly $400 million from exporting to that country, officials said.

Reporting by Serajul Islam Quadir; Writing by Anis Ahmed