Bangladesh Railway wants to purchase 10 more broad-gauge locomotives from the United States (US).
Expressing interest in this matter, the ministry of railways sent a letter to US-based Progress Rail – one of the largest integrated and diversified providers of rolling stock and infrastructure solutions as well as technologies for global rail customers – according to sources at the ministry.
Earlier, the government signed an agreement with Progress Rail to buy 40 locomotives for Tk1,123.5 crore. The engines will be delivered in five separate lots, the first of which arrived at Chattogram Port on Monday.
Bangladesh wants to buy the new engines at the same rate.
Various issues related to engine procurement and new investments in the railways sector were discussed at a meeting between Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan and US Ambassador Earl Miller at the Ministry of Railways, yesterday.
The meeting was also attended by Jeffrey Dirks, economic officer of the US Embassy in Dhaka, Selim Reza, secretary to the railways ministry, and senior officials of Bangladesh Railway.
Bangladesh Railway is building close relations with US
Bangladesh Railway is building closer ties with the United States in terms of business. At the same time, the railways minister is expecting a large investment from the United States in the sector.
Earlier, Bangladesh reached agreements with Korean company Hyundai-Dodem to procure 100 metre-gauge engines. These locomotives are also being manufactured by Progress Rail and Hyundai Dodem is assembling them.
Additionally, various projects for the development of railway lines from single-track to double-track were recently approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council.
The railways authority in Bangladesh has called on the US to join these projects. The US also has shown interest in this regard, according to the railways minister's office.
Minister Nurul Islam Sujan has also invited the US to come forward to set up passenger coaches and locomotive factories in Bangladesh.
While briefing reporters after the meeting, Sujan said they talked about how Bangladesh can use the facilities that the US have in terms of modernising tracks, signaling systems and factories. "I visited the US before and invited businessmen from the country."
"We have inherited the railway from Britain so we did not have a close relationship with the US. Now they want to be involved in our development. We have talked about these issues," he continued.
"We have also talked about how to manage this sector in a better way," he added.
Mentioning that the government wants to convert the single-track railway lines to double-track ones and expand railway lines at the district level, the minister further added that Wednesday's meeting also discussed importing modern equipment from the US.
Amjad Hossain, former director general of Bangladesh Railway, said, "The US has been able to simplify many of the technologies that are complicated in other countries. So, the locomotives coming from the country will be ahead in quality. If we get engines from the US at competitive prices, those must be anchored as it will be easy to maintain them due to their simple technology."
"However, the US does not invest directly. It invests in various projects through the International Development Association (IDA) which is an institution of the World Bank. Earlier, the World Bank did not invest in various projects even after making promises it would invest. Therefore, those projects have been suffering badly," he added.
He went on to say the changed political situation in the US will be greatly helpful for Bangladesh Railway.
"Bangladesh Railway should seek a grant by presenting projects in the Global Climate Fund (GCF) green model. This is because rail communication is much more carbon efficient than roads and airways," he continued.
Technical committee to probe technical glitches in engines sent by Hyundai
Technical glitches have been found in the 10 engines brought from Hyundai Dodem. The railways authorities have formed a technical committee to find out how this happened.
The minister said, "A metre-gauge engine runs with the TA9 alternator. Those who have signed the deal have mentioned TA12 there. TA12 is used in broad-gauge locomotives."
"At no stage of the railways has there been a decision to purchase metre-gauge engines and, if necessary, upgrade them to broad-gauge ones in the future. If there were any, the other metre-gauge engines we are buying would also have had TA12 alternators," he continued.
"We have formed a technical committee. It will find out where the fault was. The project director (PD) cannot do anything on their own decisions. The railways have authority. A PD is assigned to a project but must work in consultation with the higher authorities," he added.
"If the PD is found responsible, we will take action against him. If anyone does this to cause harm, action will be taken against them. The technical committee will look into this and give a report," he said.