The Bangladesh Railway is integrating 10 locomotive engines and 200 compartments – recently imported from South Korea and Indonesia respectively – into its fleet to speed up the trains and boost the quality of passenger service in the eastern zone.
The government imported the engines at the cost of Tk400 crore, and the compartments at the cost of Tk800 crore. The new locomotive engines have a top speed of 100 kilometers per hour, railway officials of the eastern region told The Business Standard.
The non-stop intercity train Subarna Express of the Dhaka-Chattogram route will start operating with 18 newly-imported compartments from next Tuesday. Additionally, the Bangladesh Railway is also conducting trial runs to assimilate the new engines into its fleet.
Responding to a query, Bangladesh Railway's Eastern General Manager Sardar Shahadat Ali said, "We are optimistic about integrating the new locomotive engines into our fleet within the next month. However, we have yet to finalise which trains will get those engines."
Railway East Chittagong Divisional Manager Sadequr Rahman said, "The railway in the eastern zone has 144 engines in total. The Chattogram Division has 90 engines, and Dhaka Division has 54. Among them, 112 engines are older than their operating lifespan."
"The drivers must keep their speed slow while operating trains with older engines. But trains that are getting the new engines will be much faster, as they have a top speed of 100km/h. Those trains will be able reach their destinations within a shorter time than their current schedule," he added.
Providing more details, Sadequr said, "We bought the 10 engines for Tk400 crore with funds from the Asian Development Bank to address the shortage. The engines arrived at the Chattogram port from South Korea on 31 August, and reached Pahartali factory on 2 September."
Railway Minister Mohammad Nurul Islam Sujon inaugurated the trial run of the newly-imported locomotive engines on 7 October. These engines will go on light trial runs on the 70 kilometer stretch of railway from Pahartali Diesel Shop to Chinki Astana Station.
On the other hand, the newly imported 200 compartments arrived at the Chattogram port from Indonesia in multiple phases, with the last shipment arriving on 25 October. The Udayan and Mohangonj trains have already received new compartments from the lot.
The railway authority has also sent a proposal to the ministry concerned to install the new compartments on the Kalni and Upakul express trains.
According to the Railway (Eastern Zone) timetable number 52, there are 75 trains operating in the region, including: intercity, mail, express, Diesel Electric Multiple Unit, local, and mixed. Thirty of those are operating in the Chattogram Division and 45 in the Dhaka Division.
There are 897 trains that operate in the eastern region and among those, 343 are in Chattogram Division, 554 are in Dhaka Division.
Subarna Express dresses up in red
The Subarna Express is scheduled to operate with 18 newly-imported red and green compartments, instead of the older white ones, from 3 November.
Chattogram Railway Station Manager Ratan Kumar Chowdhury told The Business Standard, "The new compartments of the Subarna Express will have 890 seats. Of those, 450 seats will be air conditioned (AC) and 440 will be non-AC."
The railway authority completed the trial run of the Subarna Express on Sunday after installing the new compartments. The train left the Chattogram Station at 11am, journeyed to Chinki Astana Rail Station, and made the return trip the same day.
The Subarna Express runs between Chattogram Railway Station and Kamalapur Railway Station in Dhaka. The non-stop intercity train was inaugurated on 14 April 1998.
The train leaves Chattogram at 7am, and reaches Dhaka at 12:20pm the same day. It begins the return trip by leaving Dhaka at 4:30pm and arrives in Chattogram at 9:50pm. The Subarna Express is not available on Mondays.