Nurul Islam Sujan, the railway minister, on Tuesday, painted a rosy picture of Indian and Chinese railways, with only hopes for developing Bangladesh railway in the years to come.
As he briefed journalists at the Rail Bhaban on his recent visits to India and China, the railway minister elaborated on how the two countries developed modern and disciplined railway services.
"Their rail services, at a glance, are very commendable. It was pleasing to see their modern and disciplined railway stations, catering services, and operation of trains. Their high-speed trains are amazing," Nurul Islam Sujan said, while expressing his hope that experiences from his visits would contribute towards the development of Bangladesh railway.
During his visits to India and China, the minister, in meetings with the railway officials of both of the countries, sought assistance in replicating their modern and disciplined railway services in Bangladesh.
The railway minister said: the overall infrastructure of the country's railway is extremely poor, the reasons for this being single-rail and metre-gauge tracks, as well as, the shortage of locomotives, carriageways and manpower. "We are hopeful that we will be able to improve our rail services with the guidance of our prime minister," he told reporters.
When asked about the prevailing bureaucratic tangle in Bangladesh railway that makes taking and implementing decisions linger for years on end, the minister said that the policies followed in India and China are not applicable in Bangladesh. "We need to do it in our own way," he said.
Indian railway is run by a powerful board that makes all the decision concerning the country's railway. In Bangladesh, every decision concerning the country's railway is made through a bureaucratic process, which is considered as one of the major obstacle towards development of Bangladesh Railway.
At the press briefing, the railway minister said that the ministry has a plan for running electric trains on the new railway routes, using the country's surplus electricity.
"I had a discussion with the Honorable Prime Minister on the subject of using electricity to run trains, and she has given her consent to go ahead with the plan," he said at the press briefing, adding that the ministry has already started working on the ways and means for using electricity on selected routes.
The minister said, three railway routes are under consideration, to this end: Dhaka to Faridpur's Bhanga via Padma Bridge, Dohazari to Cox's Bazar, and Khulna to Mongla port. New rail-tracks are being constructed on these routes. Construction of the 78-km Dhaka (from Kamalapur station) to Bhanga railway track will be completed by 2021 under the first phase of the Padma Rail Link project, so that the train service can be introduced as soon as the Padma Bridge is open to public; work on the other two routes will be completed by 2024.
The ministry aims at running train on Padma Bridge in 2021:
The railway minister said, the ministry aims for running trains on the Padma Bridge, as soon as the bridge is open for public in 2021, as announced by Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Qauder.
A project concerning the construction of a 172-km rail-track from Dhaka to Jessore via Padma bridge began in July, 2018, and is scheduled to get completed by December, 2024. However, this makes running trains on the Padma bridge by 2021 uncertain, as the project period goes far beyond 2021. Under the circumstance, the prime minister instructed the railway ministry to construct a link-(railway) track for running trains along with the motor vehicles. Following the instruction of the prime minister, the Dhaka to Faridpur's Bhanga via Padma Bridge railway track is being constructed.
"We are working to meet the PM's instruction," said the railway minister.
Railway officials said, the 78-km Dhaka-Bhanga route will be completed by 2021.
Bangladesh Railway to bring 20 Locomotives from India:
Bogged down with severe shortage of locomotives (engines), Bangladesh Railway is set to bring 20 loco motives, free of cost, from India to run the trains.
Presently, Bangladesh railway has only 263 locomotives to run its 365 trains that include both passenger and freight trains; these locomotives can't be used on regular basis, as 68 percent of them is now at the end of their lifecycle; hence, are being used on extensive repair, according to railway officials.
"I talked with the authority at the Indian railway concerning the possibilities for bringing in their locomotives. An announcement in this respect will be made during the prime minister's upcoming visit to India in next month," said Nurul Islam Sujan, the railway minister. "We wanted to rent the locomotives in the first place, but they would like to send them for free."
Md Shamsuzzaman, the director general at the Bangladesh Railway, said at the press-briefing that various railway services have been compromised due to scarcity of locomotives. He said, railway can't tap on the opportunity of carrying containers from Chattogram Port to Dhaka, as well as, fulfill the internal demand for carrying agricultural and perishable products, as the railway is unable to operate freight trains for the purpose; owing to the lack of locomotives.