A pictorial report carried on railway tracks and bridges in a leading Bangla contemporary on July 6 last is a powerful testament to the awful state of maintenance of the system. This has been further corroborated by another picture on railway tracks carried in another vernacular contemporary the same day. The picture in the first newspaper shows how the nut and bolt meant to fasten the rail tracks on sleepers at least over two bridges in Kulaura can easily be pulled up. These are loose because the wooden sleepers are so worn out that the nuts and bolts cannot hold the tracks tight. Then the report points out that many of the sleepers are missing. Also tinkering has been done with bamboo strips and iron nails to keep the existing sleepers in place. The picture from a Tangail railway bridge also focuses on similar naivety with bamboo strips and iron nails.
If this kind of maintenance or the lack of it does not invite frequent train accidents, passengers can count them lucky. It is a result of the utter neglect the country's railway has long been subjected to. Societies in the developing countries are usually not famous for maintenance of infrastructure. Large infrastructure and mega projects demand special care. In the railway system it is conspicuous by its absence. Railway tracks need constant care and routine inspection in order to ensure that those are fit for running trains with thousands of passengers.
One of the committees constituted to find the reasons behind the recent train accident at Boromchal, Kulaura has pointed fingers at the dilapidated railway tracks on and near the bridge. When railway sleepers are missing and also stone chips are inadequate to bear the pressure of a moving train, things may go wrong any moment. In the case of the portion of railway tracks on bridges, the joints should be firmly held together with strong and adequate sleepers. But instead, there the sleepers are not only missing but also the existing ones are rotten to the extent that a few of them can give in at a time or jumble together under pressure to cause a train disaster.
A particular department of the railway was once responsible for regularly inspecting the railway tracks, their joints, fish plates and other important aspects. Reportedly, the same are no longer in practice. Why? At a time other countries have introduced maglev bullet trains and are raising the speed to an astounding level -the latest being above 600 km in China, this country cannot even think of electric trains. This is indeed pathetic to see that the railway repair is done with bamboo strips and iron nails.
It is time the country invested massively in the Bangladesh Railway in order to turn it into a mode of mass transportation in the true sense of the term. Usually, train journey is safer compared to road transportation, provided that the system is developed well and maintenance ensured.
Against the backdrop of the Kulaura accident, the railway authorities should have swung into action in order to check the infrastructural flaws and weaknesses. It seems, they could not care less. Or else when the plight of the railway bridge was brought to the notice of the people assigned to the job at the ground level and higher authorities, their casual response -as reported by the reporter of the story carried in the afore-mentioned newspaper - says it all.
The higher authorities' response in particular is intriguing. They claim 1,000 or so new sleepers have been procured and if the sleepers at the Kulaura segment of rail tracks are so bad, they would enquire about it and replace those soon. When sleepers are so horribly loose, accident can happen any time and there is only a verbal assurance of addressing the problem soon. How soon it really is going to be? Is it after another accident? They themselves would not look into the matter and when the potential cause of accident has been brought to their notice, they would not rush to the spot to fix the problem. Is not this atrocious?
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