Bangladesh Railway wants to procure 290 broad-gauge container wagons and 20 brake vans at an estimated cost of Tk372 crore to operate container trains in the southern region of the country and transport export goods to Mongla port via the Padma Bridge.
The procurement of the container wagons and brake vans is also aimed at improving regional connectivity and thus boosting regional economic development as a whole, according to officials concerned.
SM Salimullah Bahar, chief planning officer of Bangladesh Railway, said an initial project proposal in this regard has been sent to the Planning Commission from the Ministry of Railways. The proposal will be forwarded to the Economic Relations Division once it gets the consent of the Planning Commission.
Of the total project cost, Tk281 crore has been proposed to be sourced from foreign lenders, he said, adding that as the project does not require a very big amount of funds, there will be no problem in implementing it solely with government funding.
He also said the Railway has a target of going for the implementation of the project next year.
Railway officials told The Business Standard that train services from Dhaka to Bhanga through the Padma Bridge will be opened in June next year. Besides, work on constructing a railway line from Khulna to Mongla port is in the final stage.
Against this background, the railway authorities are preparing to run container trains to Mongla Port using the Padma Bridge rail link.
The demand for increasing freight traffic by operating safe, cost-effective, environment-friendly, and reliable container trains is on the rise, said railway officials, adding that Bangladesh Railway at present has 956 broad-gauge wagons, 200 of which are overaged.
According to the railway's master plan, all metre gauge rail lines in the country will be converted into broad gauge ones within the next 25 years.
Connectivity between the railway's western and eastern zones and with neighbouring countries will be strengthened through the completion of the Padma Bridge rail link project, a dedicated double line (dual gauge) railway bridge over the River Jamuna, other ongoing broad gauge and dual gauge rail lines as well as rail links to Mongla and Payra seaports, and the land ports in the country.
Officials said Bangladesh Railway procured 452 metre-gauge flat container wagons in the past, but it does not have any broad-gauge flat container wagon in its fleet.
Over the last five years, metre-gauge container trains have carried an average of 24% of total freight in the country and earned more than 34% of total freight revenue. This reality lends support to potential freight demand in the broad gauge section of the railway, they said.
But to accomplish its gauge unification plan-related subsequent activities, Bangladesh Railway is badly in need of strengthening its capacity in providing container train services in broad gauge/ dual gauge sections.
And for a smart solution to port-based regional and overseas trade, new broad gauge container trains require to be introduced in the near future, said the officials.