Dhaka, Delhi to pilot freight train service in August

Dhaka,  Sun,  20 August 2017
Published : 15 Jul 2017, 00:24:40
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Dhaka, Delhi to pilot freight train service in August

Bangladesh and India will run a container train on pilot basis between Dhaka and Kolkata to assess the feasibility of extending the services on commercial basis in next month.

Bangladesh is the ninth-largest importer of Indian goods, according to a report by www.thehindubusinessline.com .

In April, State-owned Container Corporation (CONCOR) had signed an MoU with Container Company of Bangladesh Ltd (CCBL) in this regard, during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to New Delhi.

According to sources in the Railways, a full rake of empty containers will go to Dhaka through the only broad-gauge connection through Gede(India)-Darshana(Bangladesh) border gates in West Bengal.

Bangladesh will send the rake loaded with their export cargo.

The broad-gauge connection is currently used for running a passenger train, Maitree Express, between Dhaka and Kolkata.

The effort, if successful, may have a major cost impact on the $6-billion bilateral trade, which is currently dominated by non-containerised road cargo - mostly through the Petrapole border in West Bengal.

Road transport is distinctly costlier than rail.

A 2010 BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) trade logistics study pointed out that rail movement can be 30 per cent cheaper than even sea-freight (which is normally considered the cheapest) between the two neighbours.

To add to the problem, India-Bangladesh road cargo is subjected to heavy rent-seeking and delay, especially in the 70-km congested stretch between Kolkata and Petrapole.

As the trade is heavily tilted in favour of India, the road movement eats into the competitiveness of Indian exports ($5.4 billion).

Loading and unloading of non-containerised road cargo at the border further makes the trade costly and unsafe.

Direct movement of containerised cargo by train may, therefore, reduce trade costs significantly. Also, containerisation will make the trade more organised and safer.

But the proposal is not free from concerns.
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