INDIAN Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee and Bangladesh Communications Minister Anwar Hossain Manju joined ceremonies at Benapole on January 21 to mark the reopening of the cross-border rail link through Petrapole. They ’flagged off’ a special freight train conveying 35 wagonloads of wheat bound for Nawapara, near Jessore.

Closed since 1976, the 5 km broad-gauge link completes a corridor from New Bongaon near Kolkata to Jessore. An agreement to restore the line was signed in 1999, but the planned completion last September was delayed by severe flooding. IR is spending Rs55m upgrading its part of the route. Last year BR awarded a contract for private sector maintenance of its 40 km section.

The fifth rail link between India and Bangladesh offers a shorter trip than the current principal route via Gede and Darshana. At present it will only be used by freight, but the ministers expect to launch a regular passenger service between Kolkata and Dhaka soon.