In a major development incross-border transport among three South Asian nations, trial run of a Bangladesh-India-Nepal bus service is set to be launched on April 23.
Preparations are now at the final stage for the trial run, which, according to diplomatic circle, is going to be another milestone in seamless passenger-vehicle movement under the sub-regional grouping.
Government officials and representatives from Bangladesh, India and Nepal will board two buses carrying more than 40 passengers from Dhaka to Kathmandu via Siliguri.
They would start a thousand-kilometre journey for two days under the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA). However, regular passenger service would take around 30 hours, transport officials in Dhaka said.
Currently, passengers use Lalmonirhat-Burimari-Changrabandha-Siliguri route to go to Kathmandu. The new route will cut short the journey by more than 100km, while the passengers will be able to enjoy some of the lush green hills on the way.
The protocol for bus passengers will allow the three countries to operate the bus services on Rangpur-Banglabandha-Fulbari-Siliguri-Panitanki-Kakarvitta route which will reduce the Dhaka-Kathmandu journey by over 100km, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
The trial buses would leave Dhaka on April 23 and halt for the night in Rangpur. The vehicles will cross Fulbari border and reach Siliguri in Darjeeling district in the evening next day.
On April 25, the buses would start from Siliguri at 8:00am, cross Panitanki-Kakarvitta on India-Nepal border and proceed towards Damak in Nepal and reach Kathmandu the next day.
The buses will carry 23 Bangladeshi passengers, 11 Nepali passengers and eight Indians. Members of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will also join the journey.
Officials at the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Road Transport and Bridges said the trial is scheduled just before a meeting among the representatives of the three countries to work out the protocol for movement of passenger vehicles and start negotiations for protocols for movement of cargo vehicles.
The three countries are also scheduled to exchange letters for implementation of BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement. The BBIN agreement was signed on June 15, 2015 at a meeting of the BBIN Transport Ministers in Thimphu, Bhutan. It makes way for seamless flow of passenger and cargo traffic in the region.
The agreement has been ratified by India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Unable to ratify the BBIN motor vehicles agreement, Bhutan has asked the other stakeholders to go ahead with the plan and will join in it after clearance from its parliament.
Foreign ministry officials said the three countries are set to start regular bus services after signing a passenger protocol likely to be signed in Kathmandu after the trial run. The success of the trial run will pave the way for taking a decision for formal launch of the bus services.