Locomotives purchased without feasibility study fail to alleviate locomotive crisis

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Without a proper feasibility study, the public rail transport body last year introduced 30 meter gauge locomotives of Tk1,148 crore and now finds that the engines cannot run on the ten planned routes thanks to a old and fragile railway network.

August 03, 2022, 1:00 p.m.

Last modification: 03 August 2022, 17:21

Infographic: TBS

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Infographic: TBS

Look before you jump is a proverb which the Bangladesh Railway does not seem to have found worthy of much attention.

Without a proper feasibility study, the public rail transport body introduced Tk1,148 crore gauge 30m locomotives last year, and now finds that the engines cannot run on all ten planned routes thanks to an old and fragile railway network, obsolete bridges and passenger sheds lower than the height of the engines in some stations.

Diesel-electric engines now only operate on four routes – Chattogram-Chandpur, Chattogram-Dhaka, Dhaka-Parbatipur-Dinajpur-Panchgarh and Dhaka-Rajshahi.

Major roads such as Chattogram-Sylhet, Chattogram-Mymensingh, Dhaka-Sylhet and Dhaka-Noakhali remain off limits due to motors. But the railroad had placed high hopes on the engines to alleviate the current shortage of railway engines.

According to the Railway Mechanical Department, old locomotives weigh around 70-72 tons each, while new locomotives weigh around 90-95 tons. The old and fragile railway network cannot withstand the pressure of heavy locomotives.

In addition, seven old railway bridges also interfere with the engines. The bridges are – Kalurghat Railway Bridge, Old Bhairab Bridge, Kushiara Bridge, Ghorashal Bridge (top), Shambhuganj Bridge, Ghumghat Bridge and Chatak Road Bridge No. 28- Silhet.

According to an internal railroad observation, the train driver’s head hits the roof when he gets up from his seat because the engines have large wheels and low locomotive cowls.

Also, the height of the platform shed at the Narayanganj, Brahmanbaria, Dewanganj and Kulaura stations is lower than the height of the new locomotives, preventing the locomotives from stopping at the stations.

Of the new locomotives, 11 locomotives now carry passengers, ten carry freight, and the remaining nine remain idle for lack of emergency and repair.

During the British period, railway operations in the country began on November 15, 1862 with the laying of some 53 km of railway tracks on the Darshana-Jagti road. Some 2,900 kilometers of railway tracks were laid over the next 150 years.

Currently, 44 districts have rail connectivity out of a total of 64 districts. The Bangladesh Railway is divided into two administrative regions – Eastern Zone and Western Zone. Most of the railways in the eastern region are meter gauge, while the western region has mostly broad gauge lines.

According to the railroad’s transportation department, the state-owned transportation agency has a total of 159 meter gauge locomotives. Of these, two-thirds are past their expiration date, as some engines with a 20-year lifespan have been in operation for over 50 years.

Despite a daily demand of 116 locomotives, the railway can only operate 100 to 105 locomotives on a regular basis. The Korean locomotives were purchased to ease the crisis.

Hassan Mansur, director of the locomotive procurement project, said the 30 engines were purchased as replacements and there was no full feasibility study in this regard.

“But the Korean company made an assessment of how many engines we needed,” he told The Business Standard. He said the railroad needed to buy at least 20 locomotives every year.

The official said the locomotives could not run on all roads because the railway network had not been repaired in time.

“The railway tracks in Sylhet and Mymensingh needed to be repaired and developed a long time ago. A few bridges are being developed in the Mymensingh section. We will be able to extend the tracks for locomotives once these works are completed,” he said added. .

Moazzem Hossain, professor of civil engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), told The Business Standard: “It is mandatory to conduct feasibility studies before embarking on any major purchase or project. they would circulate and at which stations they would stop. If these procedures had been followed correctly, such a problem would not have arisen now.

When asked what action was being taken against those involved in the plan to buy engines without a feasibility study, Railways General Manager Dhirendra Nath Majumdar and Eastern Zone General Manager Md Jahangir Hossain refused. to comment.

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