08 July 2008

Soon, India to London by rail

A 23-Day Trans-Asia Train Trip From Dhaka To UK Via India

In what would be perhaps the world's greatest railway journey, a new rail link, to be opened later this year, will enable one to undertake a 23-day journey by train from London to Dhaka via New Delhi .

The Trans-Asia railway network stretching over 11,265 km will follow one of the old Silk Roads through Istanbul, Tehran, Lahore and Delhi. The journey, already being described as the greatest by train enthusiasts, will be longer than the Trans-Siberian railway, which spans 9,289 km, reported The Sunday Times.

India has earmarked £90 million to extend its vast rail network towards its border with Myanmar . From there just over 350 km of missing track stands in the way of an overland rail journey from London to Singapore .

Under a UN-sponsored scheme, Pakistan and Iran will link their lines in the coming months to join the sub-continent' s track to that of Europe for the first time. The UN said the link would open up new trade routes within Asia and give the former Soviet republics of Central Asia rail access to Iran 's strategic seaport at Bandar Abbas on the Gulf.

The route was extended when the Kolkata to Dhaka line reopened earlier this month, more than 40 years after it was blocked during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965.

Last week, senior Indian officials met their Iranian counterparts in Tehran to discuss the progress so far made in the rail network. The prospect has caused excitement among Britain 's rail enthusiasts. Mark Smith, whose website Seat61.com promotes rail adventures around the world, was planning his first London to Dhaka itinerary.. His trip incorporates the Eurostar to Brussels , breakfast in Vienna and onward trains to Istanbul , where travellers must take the ferry across the Bosporus linking Europe with Asia . The ferry will eventually be replaced by an underground tunnel, but for now passengers will be able to enjoy views of the Aya Sofya and Topkapi Palace .

China, a big supporter of the project, is spending billions on extending rail lines to its Myanmar border.
Trans-Asia railway sources said the only barrier to connecting London to Yunnan province and Singapore was Myanmar's military regime, whose poor human rights record means no foreign funding is available.

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