The railway ministry has taken an initiative to buy controversial Demu train at two-and-half-fold costs to start shuttle train service from Dhaka to Kaliakoir in Gazipur for comfortable journey of the Bangabandhu Hi-Tech Park staff.
To this end, a project proposal to buy six sets of Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (Demu) at a cost of Tk451.71 crore is going to be placed on Tuesday before the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) for its final approval.
If the proposal is passed in the Ecnec meeting, each set of Demu (1 set = 6 units) will be purchased at a cost of Tk75.29 crore, which is about two and a half times more than the cost of each set procured from China in 2015.
The 20 sets of Chinese Demu turned sore throats within only two years of purchase because of a number of reasons.
The reasons include bad odour for lack of cleanliness, unusual heat inside due to insufficient ventilation, lack of toilets in stations and low-height platforms.
Therefore, questions arose over the usefulness of Demu in Bangladesh, and as a result, the railway ministry, based on a report of the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division, cancelled a project to purchase 10 sets of Demu on Indian funds.
When asked about the fresh initiative of Demu purchase, Railway Secretary Md Mofazzel Hossain told The Business Standard that all the drawbacks of the previously purchased Demu trains have already been identified.
He said special focus will be put on the design of Demu to be purchased under the proposed project.
“Besides, there is nothing to worry about any possible cost increase if these are purchased after analysing the global market,” he said, adding that they had a plan to purchase these trains through floating open tenders.
Shamima Nargis, member of the physical infrastructure division of the planning commission, said the Bangladesh Railway wants to operate Demu trains with a change in their designs, considering the reality in the country.
The railway ministry claimed the project is being taken to ensure a safe, comfortable and traffic-jam free railway service for the Bangabandhu Hi-tech Park staff as well as general commuters of adjacent areas.
They expressed hope that, through this, the increasing traffic pressure on the Dhaka-Tangail Highway will also come down.
Besides purchasing equipment and six sets of broad-gauge Demu trains, the project activities also include ensuring training for railway engineers.
The Bangabandhu Hi-tech Park is being set up at Kaliakoir, 57 kilometres away from the capital, to create a congenial environment for investment to develop the country’s information and communication technology sector.
The tech park will create a notable amount of employments for the people.
As a result, it needs to ensure a comfortable journey for its staff who reside in remote areas, or else they will have to face much hassle on the Dhaka-Tangail Highway due to high traffic pressure, according to the project proposal.
Considering all these, a project proposal to buy two sets of broad-gauge Demu trains at a cost of Tk161 crore was initially sent to the planning commission towards the end of the last year.
Later, the project was extended to buy six sets of Demu trains, taking into account that only two sets would not be enough against the real demand.
Sources said a project to buy the Demus at a cost of Tk452 crore has been proposed in the project evaluation committee meeting arranged by the planning commission.
Earlier, a 2011 project to purchase 20 sets of Demus from China completed in June 2015. The Tk654.43 crore project finally used Tk598.84 crore.