India and Bangladesh have started construction on the Agartala-Akhaura rail project to help increase railway connectivity between the two countries.

The project was inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina through a video conference.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb also joined the inauguration through a video conference.

The 15.054km long cross-border Agartala-Akhaura rail project will be developed at an estimated cost of Rs9.68bn ($133.25m), reported indianexpress.com.

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Once complete, the rail line will connect the Indian state of Tripura’s capital Agartala with Akhaura in Bangladesh through Nischintapur in the border region.

Planning of the new rail line began in 2010 and the countries entered a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to build the link in 2013 along with other agreements.

“Agartala-Akhaura rail project will be developed at an estimated cost of $133.25m.”

Expected to become operational next year, the line will support trade and connectivity between Bangladesh and the north-eastern region of India.

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Additionally, the line will enable direct railway connectivity from Kolkata to Agartala through Bangladesh.

Prime minister Modi said that the Akhaura-Agartala rail connectivity will offer another link in the cross-border connectivity between the two neighbouring countries.

Alongside the Agartala-Akhaura rail project, both governments launched the rehabilitation works of the Kulaura-Shahbazpur section of Bangladesh Railways.

Furthermore, India agreed to supply 500MW of additional power to Bangladesh.

In November last year, a new passenger train called Bandhan Express started operating between Kolkata in India and Khulna in Bangladesh.

The Maitree express runs between Kolkata and Dhaka, and has been operational since 2008.