The Maitree Express train or Moitree Express is the name of the first modern-day international passenger train service connecting Bangladesh to the Indian state of West Bengal.
The Bengali name Maitree Express means the Friendship Express when translated to English, denoting the significance of the train service to the friendly foreign relations between India and Bangladesh.
Previously train services between the two countries existed before the partition of India and the Maitree Express re-established this connection between the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka with Kolkata, the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal, in 2008 after being closed for 43 years.
Maitree Express International Train Service Between India and Bangladesh : VIDEO
Video – The Railzone
In 2017 a second train service, the Bandhan Express, was inaugurated connecting Kolkata with the Bangladeshi city of Khulna, recreating the previous Barisal Express train route.
On 14 April 2008, on the occasion of the Bengali New Year, the train service was launched with much fanfare. The flag-off ceremony for the first train leaving Kolkata from the Kolkata railway station in Chitpur was attended by dignitaries such as the Indian Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav; Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi; the Governor of West Bengal Gopalkrishna Gandhi; and the Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Liquat Ali Chowdhury.
The Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee officially flagged-off the inaugural train from Kolkata, bound for Dhaka.
Another train departed at the same time carrying passengers from Dhaka to Kolkata. But the 360-seater Calcutta to Dhaka express train was carrying barely 65 passengers, including journalists and politicians, on its inaugural run.
Indian Railways officials stated that the train service was launched hurriedly, and that when information would spread there would be a greater response and passenger numbers. An official statement from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said, “The agreement will strengthen bilateral relations and provide an alternative mode of passenger transport.”
The Maitree Express runs six days a week. The train travels around 375 kilometers to reach Dhaka from Kolkata. There were earlier two stops for immigration checks in Kolkata and Dhaka. One is Gede on the Indian side and the other is Dorshona on the Bangladeshi side. Since November 2017 immigration & customs are completed at Dhaka & Kolkata. This has reduced travel time by 2-3 hours.
It takes around 9 hours to cover the entire stretch. The entire stretch is covered by broad-gauge diesel locomotives. A change of crew and locomotives takes place at Dorshona in Bangladesh. There are two major river crossings, the 100 year old Hardinge Bridge over the Padma River and the Bangabandhu Bridge over the Jamuna River. Both river crossings occur in Bangladesh. Since Pahela Boishak 2017 (15 April 2017) all coaches have been changed to air conditioned LHB coaches thus enhancing the travel experience.
Unlike most of the Indian trains, online booking through the IRCTC website is not available for this train. Tickets are only available in local currency at the booking counters of Chitpur Station in Kolkata and a valid Bangladeshi visa in the passport is mandatory before purchasing a ticket. A valid visa and passport has to be shown when purchasing the train ticket.
While applying for a visa it was earlier essential to specify the port of entry as “By rail-Gede” (for an Indian visa) or “By rail-Darshana”(for a Bangladeshi visa). Tickets will be issued only after issue of the visa and passports must be shown while booking. In case all passengers are not present, an authorisation is required while booking tickets. After both countries started issuing an e-Visa, mentioning specific port and mode of transport is no longer required. Since this is a highly popular train tickets need to be booked at least 5/6 days in advance.
As of 18 June 2014, return tickets are available on a predefined number of seats, for up-to two weeks before the date of journey, excluding the journey date. The return tickets have to be validated, by going to the station two hours before the departure of the train.
The return fare includes only the base fare, and all other taxes and service charges have to be paid during the validation of the ticket. This is applicable for return journeys from both Dhaka as well as Kolkata.
Tickets are available in Dhaka from the Main Reservation Counter of Kamalapur Station. The counter at Dhaka Cant is open everyday from 0900 to 1900 A valid visa and passport has to be shown when purchasing the train ticket.
In Kolkata tickets may be purchased from the International Ticket Booking Counter at Fairlie Place, Dalhousie Square, and also at the Kolkata Station on the day of arrival of the train from Dhaka.