Top priority to passenger-friendly railway

To tap the optimum level of potentials, the government is attaching top priority to the railway sector to turn this mode of transportation economical, safe and environment-friendly.

Already a number of projects are in the process of implementation under the 30-year master plan spanning from 2016 to 2045 at a cost of Tk. 5,53,662 crore. 

Secretary, Ministry of Railway, Md Mofazzel Hossain told Bangladesh Post on Thursday that the master plan is being implemented in a total of six phases.

"Currently there is rail connectivity with 44 districts of the country. On implementation of the Master Plan all the districts, except for 'Bhola', will come under the network of railway which will have a positive impact immensely on the country's overall socio-economic growth", said the Rail Secretary. 

He said, the Southern districts including Faridpur, Gopalganj, Barishal, Patuakhali, Jhalakathi and Barguna will be linked while the alignment with Payra Port will be completed.  

As many as 230 projects have been identified under this plan for implementation by 2045, implementation of the projects undertaken to develop the railway transportation system will ease the public transport, largely reduce transport costs, expand business and commerce, create new employment opportunity and improve the socio-economic condition of the people.

Activities, such as expansion of the railway service, construction of new railway lines and rehabilitation of rail tracks, conversion of rail line into Dual Gauge, opening of new rail stations and reopening of closed stations, launching of new trains, improving the quality of railway services and procurement of train coaches are underway. 

Sources concerned said, steps have been taken to construct 1,110.50 km dual gauge double rail track (km) and 52 new rail track (km), procure100 locomotives, construct 2 ICDs, procure locomotive simulators, construct 3 major bridges, procure 1,120 passenger coaches, modernize/construct 3 railway workshops, and modernize the signaling system under various development projects. 

The introduction of e-ticketing has not only eased railway travel for passengers, but also made it possible for them to easily learn the location of trains. The feasibility study to construct Dhaka-Chattogram high speed trains is in progress.

Experts opine that the BR could capture much more of the container market than it currently enjoys. However, substantial infrastructure development would be required. BR’s passenger traffic is limited by rolling stock capacity. In order to increase passenger traffic, BR should first increase RS efficiency and carriage numbers, then focus on infrastructure upgrades.

  Investment projects for electric traction may be undertaken if the projects become viable in the proposed feasibility studies.

The traffic forecast undertaken for the Master Plan adopts “Market-Capture” in scenarios to provide the range of “Potential” traffic. Furthermore, bulk commodities are the major commodities that could potentially make BR a viable operating state enterprise. 

In line with these possibilities, it is recommended that BR market to specific major users with specific service offers that enhance quality of service in terms of wagon availability, reliable schedule and pre-determined delivery time.  BR could also consider entering into service contract agreements so that the Railway could make investments with guaranteed traffic. 

There are two important aspects that emerged out of BR market dynamics which are, BR should focus only on bulk commodities and containers and further expansion of  capacity for higher market capture.

Analysts also say that the Bangladesh Railway has been losing market share for decades, despite the fact that country’s market for transportation services has been steadily growing. 

Several studies in the past have pointed out that BR’s revenue is not so much dependent on the size of its market as on the ability of BR to operate trains and provide transport services.