International ConnectionsOn this page
- Sri Lanka
- China, Myanmar, and South-East Asia
- Afghanistan, Iran, and Central Asia
Q. Are there rail connections to Pakistan from India?
Before the partition of the subcontinent, there used to be several trains running across what is now the India-Pakistan border. Today, there are only two active rail connections, and others are in disuse or have been dismantled.
As of August 2022, both active connections - Attari to Wagah and Munabao to Khokrophar - have no trains running due to continuing political tensions between the two countries. (Updates and timelines below.)
Attari to Wagah
Attari and Wagah are towns on either side of the border. (The sole road link between the two countries also goes through Wagah.) In 1976, under the Shimla Accords, a weekly train, the ‘Samjhauta Express’ (‘samjhauta’ = ‘understanding’ in Hindi; often spelled ‘Samjhota’ in English news sources in Pakistan), was started from Amritsar to Lahore.
Originally, each country was to alternate in supplying a rake for the train for six months at at time, with locos switched at the border. This agreement fell apart during the late 80's when IR decided to terminate the service at Attari.
So these days, there is no through train; instead passengers have to switch trains at the border. On the Indian side, the Atari Link Express (14001/14002) runs non-stop from a special platform (Platform No.1) in Delhi to Atari station covering roughly 470km in 07:40hrs. An ICF rake with 6 Sleeper coaches and 1 AC-3 tier coach is used for this trip and back. The Pakistani section of this service is operated using a rake consisting of 7 Second-sitting coaches, 2 Sleeper coaches and 2 Luggage-cum-Guard vans. These trains are numbered as (14607/14608).
Although it was planned to be a daily train and various proposals considered, it remains a bi-weekly affair with services on Monday and Thursday.
The present time-table of the service is given below. All times are in Indian Standard Time, Pakistani Standard Time is thirty minutes behind Indian Standard Time.
|Days||Monday, Thursday||Monday, Thursday||Monday, Thursday|
|Delhi-Lahore (14001+14607)||Depart: 2350 Sunday, Wednesday||Arrival: 0730 Depart: 1130||Arrival :1200 Depart: 1500||Arrival: 1540|
|Lahore-Delhi (14608+14002)||Arrival: 0335 Tuesday, Friday||Arrival: 1230 Depart: 2000||Arrival: 0905 Depart: 1135||Depart: 0830|
|Remarks||Indian Terminus||Indian Customs and Immigration||Pakistani Customs||Pakistani Terminus|
Munabao to Khokrophar
These two towns are about 6km apart across the border. Services on this line were restored in 2006 after reconstruction of a small leg of the line destroyed in the 1965 war and the conversion of the Mirpur Khas to Khokrophar line on the Pakistan side from MG to BG. On the Indian side, gauge conversion of the Jodhpur-Munabao line was completed in 2004. Pakistan constructed a special station (called Zero Point) a few hundred metres from the international border to carry out customs and immigration. Indian customs and immigration procedures are carried out at Munabao itself.
Pakistan Railways runs the Thar Express between Karachi and Munabao, while the Indian leg is called is the Thar Link Express (Munabao-Jodhpur). Like the Attari - Wagah crossing, there are no through services, passengers need to switch trains. The service is operated on Saturdays from both sides.
The distance between Jodhpur and Karachi is 342km (Indian territory) + 381km (Pakistani territory) for a total of 723km. The Pakistan leg takes approximately 7 hours, 5 minutes to cover a published distance of 381 kilometres (237 mi), traveling along a stretch of the Karachi–Peshawar main line and then the Hyderabad (Sind) – Khokhrapar branch line. In India, line runs from the border at Munabao to Barmer and joins the mainline to Jodhpur at Luni. In Pakistan, seven stations, Jamrao, Shadi Pali, Saeendad, Pithoro, Dhoro Naro, Chhore and Khokhrapar were renovated for this link. Mirpur Khas to Pithoro is likely to remain dual-gauge for some time, while there is no MG service to Khokraphar now since the BG tracks have been laid on the former MG trackbed. MG lines to Nawabshah and the Pithoro Loop Line remain MG for now, though their future is uncertain.
In addition to the two mentioned above, a partial list of former connections between the territories of the countries that are now India and Pakistan:
- Ferozepur - Fazilka - Bahawalnagar - Samasata (through Anupgarh (India) / Amruka & Fort Abbas (Pakistan) near the border).
- Ferozepur - Kasur - Raiwind - Lahore
- Amritsar - Dera Baba Nanak - Narowal - Sialkot
- Sialkot - Jammu
See the international links list for more details.
There also used to be another mail train between Ahmedabad and Hyderabad (Sind) running in the late 1920s with a similar route through Luni but probably bypassing Jodhpur. The Palanpur-Kandla/Bhuj line then extended only up to Deesa, while the line south of Samdari ran only up to Raniwara. Thus, this train used to run from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad via Marwar and Luni.
Also, the Frontier Mail (now renamed the Golden Temple Mail) on WR used to go all the way up to Peshawar during the Raj days and that's why it was named the “Frontier” Mail.
Apart from the Frontier Mail other notable trains that used to run between what are now India and Pakistan included:
- Punjab Mail (Bombay VT - Lahore, via Delhi / Ferozepur, GIPR)
- Howrah Lahore Mail via Patna
- Howrah Express to Lahore
- Peshawar Express from Bombay to Peshawar
Timelines and notable incidents
- 1947: Partition happens, trains across the border still continue running for a few years.
- 1965: Thar Express route bombed by Indian Air Force during the war.
- 1976: Samjhauta Express services started after the Shimla Agreement.
- 2002: Samjhauta Express services suspended after 2001 Indian Parliament attacks.
- 2003: Reports of tracks being dismantled from Wagah to the border point
- 2004: Talks between the two countries result in the Samjhauta Express running again from January 15, 2004. Rail link agreement extended until 2007.
- 2004: Samjhauta Express services restarted. Pakistan indicates willingness to reopen the Khokrophar border with a tentative date of Oct. 2005 set.
- 2005: Gauge conversion from Mirpur Khas to Khokrophar starts, using 90lb/ft rails. Date for reopening moved from Oct 2005 to Jan 2006.
- 2006: Thar Express services starts on Feb 17 2006. Rail link agreement extended till 2018. Further extended till 2021.
- 2007: Samjhauta Express bomb blasts occur near Panipat, India. Services temporarily suspended after Benazir Bhutto’s (Pakistani politician) assassination.
- 2019: Samjhauta Express services suspended by India in February following terrorist attacks, restored in March. Only to be suspended again in August by Pakistan following abrogation of Article 370 of the constitution by India. Thar Express is also suspended. Samjhauta Express rake stranded at Wagah.
- 2020: India asks for the return of the stuck Samjhauta Express rake after reports of it being used for Pakistan Railways operations surface.
Currently there are no rail links to Sri Lanka.
There was a link to Sri Lanka from India until 1964, with services from Madras to Colombo using the Indo-Ceylon Express, also called “Boat Mail”. The first service ran on November 1, 1896 between Madras and Tuticorin on rails with a switch to an overnight steamer ferry for the remainder of the journey to Colombo.
After the Pamban bridge was built, the train was routed to Dhanushkodi, the southern tip of the island of Rameshwaram. This service began on February 24, 1914. Passengers then used a ferry service from a pier here to cross the 19km of open sea at Adam's Bridge (a series of coral reefs), and then boarded the connecting train to Colombo at Talaimannar in Sri Lanka.
In 1964, a fierce cyclone destroyed much of the track and the pier (and the town) at Dhanushkodi. The cyclone also damaged two steamers, one of which had to be decommissioned. The tracks were never repaired, and today they run directly to Rameshwaram and then stop about 4km before the tip of the Rameshwaram island. Following this, the train was diverted to run to Rameshwaram where a new wharf and terminal was constructed. The steamer T.S.S Irwin sailed across to Talaimannar. The steamer service, which was operated by the Southern Railway (even earlier by SIR), was handed over to the Shipping Corporation of India and continued operating until the early 90’s, when it was discontinued.
Around 1910, the South Indian Railway proposed constructing a causeway across the shallow waters of Adam's Bridge, but plans were shelved when World War I broke out. In 2002, there were reports that ferry services would resume post refurbishment of the wharfs and terminals, but these plans too appear to have been shelved.
Q. Are there rail connections to Bangladesh from India?
There are currently (07/2022) five active links between the countries: via Gede-Darshana, Petrapole-Benapole, Haldibari - Chilahati, Radhikapur - Birol and Singhabad - Rohanpur.
The first three routes are used by both passenger services and freight, while the rest are freight only.
Connections between the countries were used infrequently for freight since 1972, after the formation of Bangladesh, and more regularly after transport agreements were signed by the two countries in the 1990s.
(In all of these the first location is in India and the other is in Bangladesh).
Passenger services using the Gede-Darshana connection began running as trials in 2001, with regular time-tabled services beginning in 2008 (see below). In 2017, passenger services were also started from Kolkata to Khulna using the Petrapole-Benapole connection. Starting in June 2022, passenger services were reintroduced on the Haldibari - Chilahati route.
The Maitree (Friendship) Express service started in April 2008 after both governments finally agreed upon the route and timings in July 2007. It runs through the Gede-Darshana border and has an additional technical halt at Ishwardi Jn. on the Dhaka-Kolkata run. Customs and immigration procedures are completed at Kolkata and Dhaka, thus the train only stops for around 30 minutes at the international border for a crew and locomotive change.
The service is operated on both BR and IR rakes (fully air-conditioned rakes) using WDM-3A diesel locomotives of Barddhaman shed on the Indian side and Ishwardi shed on the Bangladesh side.
A trip from Kolkata (Chitpur terminal) to Dhaka on the service takes 08:50 hrs covering a total of 392km of which roughly 113km is in India and 275km in Bangladesh.
The Maitree Express first started running on a trial basis in 2001 between Sealdah and Bongobondhu East in Bangladesh. The connection to Dhaka was under construction after the previous line was washed away in a flood in 1978.
Initially proposed as a 10-coach daily train, the Maitree Express now runs 5 days a week with rolling stock from both Bangladesh Railways and IR.
This is a fully air-conditioned IR operated service between Kolkata and Khulna (Bangladesh). Started in November 2017, it runs via the Petrapole-Benapole border with an additional commercial stop at Jessore Jn. Immigration and customs are carried out at Benapole with an hour long stoppage. It covers roughly 79km in Indian territory and 93km on Bangladeshi territory. The service is operated using the IR rake used for the Maitree Express.
Following the restoration of the Haldibari - Chilahati connection (this was destroyed by the 1965 war with Pakistan), a new train between New Jalpaiguri and Dhaka was proposed. It was initially slated to start on 26th March 2021 (to commemorate 50 years of Bangladesh's independence), but started only on 1st June 2022 due the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mitali Express is operated entirely using IR's coaching stock and is fully air-conditioned. Departures from New Jalpaiguri on Sundays and Wednesdays, with the return from Dhaka the next day. The express covers 71km in Indian territory and 453km in Bangladesh. Immigration and customs procedures are carried out at New Jalpaiguri and Dhaka Cantonment for passengers using the terminal stations. There are plans to add Chilahati as an additional customs check-point, but current status is unknown. Haldibari is a technical halt and no boarding or de-boarding is allowed.
Rakes and timings
1 BR rake (LHB, fully Air Conditioned with 2 End-On Generator cars, 4 AC3 coaches, 4 AC2 coaches) used for Maitree Express.
1 IR rake (LHB, fully Air Conditioned with 2 End-On Generator cars, 4 AC1 coaches, 4 AC Chair Car coaches) used for Maitree Express and Bandhan Express.
1 IR rake (LHB, fully Air Conditioned with 2 End-On Generator cars, 4 AC1 coaches, 4 AC Chair Car coaches) used for Mitali Express.
|Day||Kolkata-Dhaka Maitree Exp||Dhaka-Kolkata Maitree Exp||Kolkata-Khulna Bandhan Exp||Khulna-Kolkata Bandhan Ex|
|Timing (in IST and 24 hour-format)||0710 - 1600||0745 - 1600||0710 - 1230||1300 - 1810|
|Monday||BR rake (13108)|
|Tuesday||IR rake (13109)||BR rake (13107)|
|Wednesday||BR rake (13108)||IR rake (13109)|
|Thursday||IR rake (13129)||IR rake (13130)|
|Friday||IR rake (13109)||BR rake (13107)|
|Saturday||BR rake (13108)||IR rake (13109)|
|Sunday||BR rake (13107)||IR rake (13129)||IR rake (13130)|
Historical and possible new connections
In the past there were many trains running between India and East Pakistan (as Bangladesh was known). In 1964, there were three trains from Sealdah running into East Pakistan: the East Bengal Express (via Gede to Parbatipur and Goalandu Ghat), the East Bengal Mail (via Gede to Parbatipur) and the Barisal Express (to Khulna via Petrapole). The Barisal Express was a passenger train until 1947, and a mixed train later. A passenger service ran from Karimganj (NFR) to Kulaura (Bangladesh). These services all ceased after the 1965 war.
There were also some other MG passenger services between East Pakistan and Assam in India (from Kulaura in E. Pakistan to Karimganj in Assam), with a Pakistani border checkpoint at Latu. A MG link existed between Mahisasan (Mohishashon) and Shahbazpur.
There was also a Darjeeling Mail which ran from Sealdah to Siliguri (on BG) via the Bengal - Assam Railway, across the Sara Bridge, through what later became East Pakistan. That train was discontinued in the 60s and there was no train service from Calcutta to Siliguri until the Meter Gauge Assam Rail Link (between Barsoi and Siliguri) was completed.
A list of former rail connections between the territories that are now India and Bangladesh:
- Sealdah - Banpur - Gede - Abdulpur - Parbatipur - Haldibari - Siliguri
- Katihar - Radhikapur - Biral - Parbatipur - Tista - Geetaldaha - Golakganj - Fakiragram
- Geetaldaha - Alipurduar
- Mogalhat - Changrabandha - Domohani
- Badarpur - Kalaura (Sylhet)
(06/2020) A link from Sabroom (southern Tripura) to Chittagong is also being explored to provide the North-Eastern region direct and close access to the Chittagong and Mongla ports. Bangladesh has already granted port access to the north-eastern states but currently the cargo has to be trans-shipped by road.
An Agartala-Akhaura link as part of a pan-South Asia link with Myanmar and beyond is also under construction.
Q. Are there rail connections to Nepal from India?
(06/2020) Currently there are two active rail links between India and Nepal. Raxaul-Sirsiya Dry Port (just outside Birgunj) and Jayanagar - Janakpur. Both are broad gauge.
The Raxaul-Sirisiya section is a 6km rail link to provide Nepal access to the Indian port of Kolkata. This connection was for a time lost in the late 1990s when the lines leading to Raxaul from IR's network were being converted from MG to BG. Throughout the early 2000s, there was talk of extending the soon to arrive BG line to Birgunj. Finally, in 2004, work began on completing this link after the connection to Raxaul from the rest of IR was restored on BG. The erstwhile alignment to inside the town was abandoned in favour of a new one to a large, modern transshipment yard called Sirsiya just outside Birgunj.
The original MG line used to extend about 39km inside Nepal to Amlekhganj operated by the Nepal Government Railway. It was built by Martin's of Calcutta in 1924-7, and remained in service until the mid-1960s, primarily for freight service. The Birganj-Amlekhganj section was shut down in Dec. 1965.
During the gauge conversion discussions in the early 2000s, several propsals were put forward to revive this section, including one in 2007 from the Pipapav Rail Corporation that talked of extending the line further from Amlekhganj to Kathmandu. These proposals have not seen further progress.
Jaynagar - Janakpur
Jaynagar is connected to the rest of IR through a spur branch leading up from Darbhanga via Sakri Jn. From Jaynagar, there is a Nepal Government Railway connection to Janakpur and onwards to Bizalpura and Bardibas. Currently (07/2020), this section inside Nepal is awaiting reopening post gauge conversion. It is hoped that DEMU rakes manufactured by ICF, Chennai will run passenger services on the first leg, Jaynagar-Janakpur. Construction on the Janakpur-Bardibas has not been completed. The total length of the line is about 53km.
Passenger services were suspended in late 2014 for gauge conversion. Prior to 2014, the line from Jaynagar was 2'6" NG. Services first began in 1937. In 1994, the service was augmented by the transfer of 6 8-coach NG rakes and 5 ZDM-5 diesel locomotives from SER's Nagpur division, as the older steam locos used for the line were getting decommissioned. In the late 1990s two more ZDM-5 locomotives were transferred from India.
In 2008, three other proposals for rail connectivity to Nepal were considered and had preliminary engineering surveys done: New Jalpaiguri (India) to Kakrabitta (Nepal) via Panitanki (46.3km); Nepalganj Road (India) to Nepalganj (Nepal) (12.1km); and Nautanwa (India) to Bhairahawa (Nepal) (15.3km). Nothing seems to have come out of these proposals.
In 2008, the railway link within India to Jogbani (northern Bihar) was upgraded to allow for container traffic (from Kolkata port) to be unloaded and transshipped by road to Biratnagar in Nepal. This eased the movement of cargo which earlier had to be transshipped to road at Katihar, over 100km away. A plan to extend the railway line from Jogbani directly to Biratnagar was under consideration in January 2009. A more sophisticated container facility at Bathnaha, 7km from Jogbani was set up to ease movement.
The Transport Corporation of Nepal was established in 1974 in connection with a gift from the Chinese government to Nepal, a complete 11km electric trolleybus system between Kathmandu and Bhaktapur with 22 trolleybuses built by Shanghai Bus Factory. The trolleybuses are Shanghai's model SK500, and there were also some petrol and diesel buses (SK541, SK600).
Lastly, there are other disused 2'6" lines: Bhimnagar (in Nepal) to Kosi dam (on the border), Bhimnagar to Forbesganj (in India, south of Jogbani) which connected to the IR MG network (includes a section Birpur-Dharan?). These are connected to the Kosi Irrigation Project (Kosi Barrage Railway) which was a pre-war project revived in 1952. Although expected to finish in 1962 it took considerably longer. About 20 NG steam locomotives were used on the railway. Some were still in use in 1982, although by 1987 all had stopped working.
To complete the record, other lines in Nepal include the following: Bhimnagar - Chhakraghatti, Chhakraghatti - Chhatra - Kosi River wharf, Chhakraghatti - Ghopa (Dharan) (this section was closed by 1982), and an aerial cableway from Ghopa to a stone quarry. See the international links list for more details.
Q. Are there rail connections to Bhutan?
Currently (07/2020) there are no railways at all in Bhutan. However, proposals have been repeatedly floated to link Bhutan's border towns with three railheads in Assam and two in West Bengal. In February 2020, a MoU to link Mujnai in India and Nyoenpaling in Bhutan was signed (This is possibly a revision of the original Hashimara - Phuentsholing link discussed in 2015.) In a 2015 proposal, the following cross-border lines were to be constructed:
- Banarhat, West Bengal -- Samchi (Samtse) (16km)
- Hashimara, West Bengal -- Phuentsholing (18km), with a possible extension to Pasakha
- Kokrajhar, Assam -- Gelekphu (70km)
- Pathsala, Assam -- Nanglam (40km)
- Rangia, Assam -- Sandrup Jonghkar via Darranga (60km)
China, Myanmar (Burma), South-East Asia
Q. Are there rail connections to China or Myanmar (Burma) from the northeast of India?
(07/2020) At present, none. (And there have never been any in the past during British rule either.)
In the northeast, going up the Brahmaputra valley, the Indian rail network comes quite close to China. It also comes near Myanmar at two places, though there are considerable gaps before the actual border is reached. The nearest Indian railhead to Myanmar is Lekhapani at the end of the broad gauge branch line from Tinsukia Jn). (Passenger services currently terminate at Ledo. There used to be passenger service until Lekhapani in the 1970s. It is said that there are occasional special services between Ledo and Lekhapani for colliery employees.) On the Myanmar side the nearest railhead is about 400 hundred kilometres south-east of Lekhapani at Myitkyina.
There are considerable difficulties in any proposed connection to China from here even though this is very close to the international border between India and China. Both to the north and to the east the territory on approaching and entering China is very difficult and mountainous. Incidentally, the old Ledo Road (also known as the Stilwell Road for Gen. Joseph Stilwell, commander of US forces in the area during the Second World War), which provided a wartime connection between India/Burma and China started here, at Ledo, and connected through many winding mountain passes with China's Yunnan province.
(07/2020) The other possibility, which has seen considerable construction and progress for connecting to Myanmar is from Jiribam on the Assam-Manipur border. This line from Silchar has been extended past Jiribam to the town of Vangaichungpao about 11km towards Imphal. Work on completing the connection to Imphal is well underway. Surveys and preliminary works for extending the line further east from Imphal to the border town of Moreh have been completed. On the Myanmar side, the border town of Tamu has no railway connection yet, although surveys to extend the present network from Kalay, 83km away have been completed. Proposals for this line were first tabled in 2006 with RITES conducting a feasibility study and rejecting the endeavour as economically not viable. The project was revived again in 2014 with participation of both governments.
In both cases the connecting railway lines, if built, would have to cut paths across some formidable mountain ranges, not to mention the Chindwin River and thick tropical jungle. These deterrents are probably what prevented such rail connections from being built in the past.
Further to the South, Bangladesh Railways also comes close to Myanmar in the Chittagong area. But then come the Hill Tracts followed by the daunting Arakans. A railway line that closely follows the coast may be one possibility here.
All railway lines in Myanmar are meter-gauge lines, reducing the value of a cross-border link because of the need for transshipment of freight from the main BG Indian network.
Q. What is the possibility of a rail link to South-East Asia and Singapore?
The idea of a rail link to Singapore comes up every so often. Myanmar railway lines are meter-gauge. So are the railways in Thailand and Malaysia. So the value of such a link for freight transportation is greatly diminished by the need for transshipment at some point to get to the main BG network in India. Until 2006, in Myanmar the southern section of the railway network was not connected to the northern one, there being a gap at Mottama (formerly Martaban) across the Thanlwin River to Mawlamyine (formerly Moulmein). A bridge across the river was finished in 2006, linking both parts of the network.
Going further south, the link between the Myanmar network and the Thai network no longer exists, as most of the lines laid down by the Japanese during the war (the infamous “Death Railway”) were ripped up a long time back. So this link is something that would take a lot of work to bring to life.
Afghanistan, Iran, and Central Asia
Q. Are there continuous rail connections from India to Central Asia or Europe?
Ignoring political and practical problems in actually using such connections for passenger services, starting 2009 or so, the answer is yes! There are continuous physical railway connections from easternmost India all the way to the UK. Read on…
From Quetta in Pakistan, the Nushki Extension Railway runs through Mirjaveh (Mirjawa) on the border to Zahedan (also known as Duzdap) in Iran on 5'6" gauge. (It passes close by the live Kuh-i-Taftan (Koh-i-Taftan) volcano.) This line was constructed from Spezand Jn. near Quetta to Nushki in 1905. Extension work continued from 1917, reaching Zahedan by 1922, covering 704km (440 miles).
Trains have been running intermittently on this section towards Zahedan from Pakistan from about 1918. By the 1930s only the first 350km (219 miles) were in use and most of the remainder was dismantled. It was then rebuilt in 1942 as a route for Allied war material to reach the USSR. The line is a BG line.
Because of moving sand dunes common in the area which often cover the railway line, at many places the line was built with duplicate stretches; the crew chose the branches that were not covered (or are less covered) by sand. However, recent (2015) Chinese investment in this line as part of China Pakistan Economic Corridor has improved the permanent way and infrastructure, so this is longer the practice.
After 1942 too, passenger services operated intermittently. Later a weekly passenger service was begun, which used to take 38 hours, an average of about 19km/h. Track maintenance and station crews are Iranian for about the last 50 miles to Zahedan (since about 1967), but the rest of the link is operated by Pakistan Railways. The Zahedan Mixed Passenger (earlier The Taftan Express) now runs regularly from Quetta in Pakistan, carrying one second class passenger coach, with the rest being freight cars. (05/2001) It runs on the 1st and 15th of every month from Quetta and returns on the 3rd and 17th of every month from Zahedan. The journey takes 33 hours. The usual motive power is a Quetta shed Alco DL-500 all the way to Zahedan. Because of the remoteness of the line, a spare loco is kept on the branch about 12 hours out of Zahedan.
However, from Zahedan, onward connections to Kerman and beyond in Iran were not in place for several decades, until about 2009. This was the big "missing link" of a potential UK-India route. West of Kerman is the main Iranian network, which is all standard gauge, 4'8½". It has connections to Central Asia (via Mashhad through Sarakhs on the border to Turkmenistan, with a gauge change to CIS broad gauge of 1520mm), with connections to Tashkent / Dushanbe / Ashkhabad, etc. ((04/2000) Freight services to Central Asia exist, but no passenger trains are available despite many proposals). Iran also has connections to Europe via Turkey (from Tabriz through Razi on the border to Ankara; there is a ferry across Lake Van in eastern Turkey and another across the Hellespont), and north through Azerbaijan (via Jolfa on the border to Baku, Erevan, etc.).
This last missing section in Iran was intermittently under construction in the 1990s and planned to be completed by 2002 or so but construction went on for quite a while until the Kerman - Bam and Bam - Shur Gaz sections were completed on June 9, 2009. Passenger services on the Zahedan - Bam section were opened in September 2010 by Iran Railways. A demonstration train with container freight left Islamabad in Pakistan on August 14, 2009, on a two-week trip to Turkey, with the containers being transhipped to standard gauge bogies at Zahedan. With the completion of the Kerman to Zahedan link in Iran, one can theoretically (very theoretically!) ride the rails (with changes due to differences in gauge) from the UK all the way to Assam! Note that Iran Railways have started running passenger services on the new Bam-Zahedan section as of September 2010.
Q. Are there railways in Afghanistan? Can one travel from India to Afghanistan by rail and onwards to Iran and Europe?
(07/2020) Afghanistan has three railway lines, all in the North and North-West of the country. They are all freight lines and carry no scheduled passenger trains.
In the early 1980’s a 15km 1.524m gauge (CIS broad gauge) spur was constructed by the Soviets from Termez, across the river in Uzbekistan into Afghanistan, terminating at the Kheyrabad transshipment point on the south bank of the Amu Darya. In January 2010, work began on connecting Mazar-i-Sharif to the border town of Hairatan, a little further north from Kheyrabad. This line became operational in August 2011. In 2018, Uzbekistan proposed to extend this line a further 657km south-west to Herat.
A 9.6km spur, also of CIS broad gauge, extends from Serhetabat (Khushka in Russian) in Turkmenistan to the border town of Torghundi in Afghanistan. Originally built by the Soviets in the 1960s, upgrades to this line were done in 2007. In April 2016, a proposal to extend this line approximately 100 km to Herat was raised, where it could connect to the standard-gauge line that Iran is building from Khaf (on the line west from Mashhad).
A third line was opened further east in November 2016, connecting Aqina in Faryab province with Atamyrat/Kerki in Turkmenistan.
It is not possible to travel to Afghanistan from India via Pakistan. On the Pakistan side the BG line of the former Khyber Railway reaches Landi Khana (2km from the border). The Khyber Railway line starts from Peshawar Cantt. The section up to Landi Kotal was completed in 1925 and the remaining section (a downward incline with ruling gradient of 1:25) from Landi Kotal to Landi Khana in 1926. Tracks further from Landi Khana to the border post (2km) were built but never used.
Also in Pakistan, the BG line of the former Chaman Extension Railway reaches Chaman, where the buffer stops are about 200 yards short of the Afghan border. This was part of the ambitiously planned Kandahar State Rly. which was to have reached Kandahar in Afghanistan from Ruk on the Indus State Rly. The Chaman extension starts from Bostan, north of Quetta. The construction of the Chaman line involved the completion, in 1891, of the Khojak tunnel, then the longest railway tunnel in British India.
In 2003, a news report from Pakistan Railways suggested that a new railway line from Chaman to Kandahar was proposed and that the project would be complete by 2010. This never took off. In 2010, a similar proposal also went nowhere. Further, in 2012 there were plans to link Chaman and Spin Boldak, 12km into Afghanistan, but this too seems to have been dropped.
In the past there was a 32km stretch of MG track laid by the British from the north-west territory in what is now Pakistan towards Afghanistan along the Kabul valley and turning westwards towards the Loi Shilman valley. This was dismantled in 1909.
(Note: Earlier this page erroneously claimed that this line entered Afghanistan. Loi Shilman, however, is within modern-day Pakistan. The error is regretted.)
Andrew Grantham has written an exhaustive account of Afghanistan's railways - built and proposed.
(Note: There were some locomotives (diesel-hydraulics, 600mm gauge) delivered to Afghanistan in the past for power plants and dams. There was a steam tramway built from Kabul to Darulaman, which used two Henschel steam locomotives; the line was not in use for long.)
For the sake of completeness, here is a list of past proposals and updates on linking India with Afghanistan and onwards to Iran.
(04/2000) The initial project is dubbed “NOSTRAC” (North-South Transport Corridor). So far this has mostly been a lot of talk without any real work.
Another proposed pan-Asian project is “TAR”, the Trans-Asian Railway. This is a proposal under the aegis of ESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) to which India also belongs, under the Asian Land Transport Infrastructure Development (ALTID) project. The TAR project envisions three Asian rail corridors, a northern one, a central one, and a southern one, to link southern China and south-east Asia with Europe.
The proposed termini for the routes are Kunming in China, Bangkok in Thailand, and Kapikule in Bulgaria. The route from Thailand is supposed to go through Myanmar, enter India at Tamu (in Manipur), go through Bangladesh at Mahisasan / Shahbazpur, and re-enter India at Gede. Subsidiary routes that are part of this project for pan-Asian connectivity include Haldia - Calcutta, Abdulpur - Rohanpur - Singhapur - Raxaul (Bangladesh-Nepal). On the other side the route from India goes through Pakistan and Iran to Turkey and from there to Bulgaria. As with the NOSTRAC scheme, this has so far been mostly a lot of proposals on paper.
(01/2003) Recently China, Iran, and other countries have been discussing the possibility of constructing railway links between the Central Asian Republics, China, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. One proposal calls for a line from Gwadar port in Pakistan to Taftan via southern Baluchistan, Saindak, Reko Diq, and Dalbandin.
(06/2003) There is now some more talk about a project to link India with south-east Asia (through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and ending in Hanoi in Vietnam) under the auspices of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation Group.
(04/2007) China and Pakistan are also said to have agreed to extend China's East-West Railway 760km beyond the Chinese border city of Kashgar into Pakistan, up to Peshawar. The Gwadar port is also being improved and given additional rail and road links so that eventually this may become a major transit point for traffic for western China as well as for the Central Asian states.
Another proposal is the extension of a Pakistan Railways line from Chaman into southern Afghanistan including Kandahar and Herat, and then reaching Khushka in Tajikistan, which is already connected to the railway networks in Central Asia, or to Towraghondi, connecting to the short existing spur to Uzbekistan, or also to Shirkhan Bandar on the border with Tajikistan. The Karachi-Chaman mainline section of PR would also have to be upgraded, as would the Khushka-Gwadar link. Iran is also said to be interested in links to the PR network around Chagai (Saindak, Reko Diq).
(05/2007) Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed upon a proposal to construct a 10.5km stretch of railway tracks from Chaman to Spin Boldak in Afghanistan in 2008-2009 which would be the first step in connecting to Kandahar and beyond. Separately there is work (at varying levels of planning or execution) on railway lines in Afghanistan, e.g., Hayratan - Mazar-i-Sharif, Aqina-Andkhoy.
Q. Were there any other international connections from India to other countries or territories?
An international connection that did exist in the past but is no longer a possibility is that between India (both British India and independent India) and the territory of Goa, which until 1961 was a colony of Portugal and not part of India. The MG railway line from Mormugao to Castle Rock was originally owned and operated by the West of India Portuguese Railway (which despite its name was a British company) and it connected with the line in British India from Londa. The terminus of the line today is Vasco da Gama. For travellers between Goa and British India, and later between Goa and India, all the formalities of international travel including customs checks and verification of travel documents were carried out at Castle Rock.
Another such international connection consisted of the railway line between Villupuram and Pondicherry, while Pondicherry was French territory (until 1954). There was a single border checkpoint on this route at Chinnababusamudram.