A recent report published in the Financial Express brought to light that ageing carriages have now been growing in number in the fleet of the West Zone of Bangladesh Railway, making operations risky. According to available information, nearly forty per cent of the 640 passenger carriages under the West Zone are now inoperable as their economic life has run out. The Bangladesh Railway (BR) operates some 145 trains daily on 790 kilometres of broad and dual gauge tracks, the rest five hundred kilometres being metre gauge. Some Intercity express trains apart, most of the other local trains under this zone are noted for being roost to below-standard carriages that are bereft of the basic facilities with dirt, unclean seats and unusable toilets being the usual offering from most of them. Although the very recently introduced Banalata Express, which journeys non-stop between Rajshahi and Dhaka, the East Zone's headquarters, has added some surface shine to BR's operation's on the West Zone, overall passenger satisfaction remains unachieved as yet.
Headquartered in Rajshahi, the West Zone owes its name from being situated on the west side of the Jamuna and Padma rivers with only one bridge connecting its operations to the East Zone. Traditionally the areas that are now served by the West Zone were the regions that were home to the more revenue-generating freight and passengers in the pre-1947 days. With emergence of the province of East Bengal in 1947 with Dhaka becoming the capital, and the main port being located on the eastern side, slant of development of railway turned towards areas that now comprise BR's East Zone. One must add to it the fact that total length in railway kilometres had decreased for some time since 1947, with then Rajshahi Division bearing the brunt of loss. The emergence of Bangladesh in 1971 has seen a topsy-turvy path of development in matters of railway. Indeed at times, railway was relegated to secondary importance. With the railway being the main mode of transport in areas of former Rajshahi Division, it is no wonder that people here were more hurt than other areas whenever a gap occurred. Besides, this also brings to the fore the logic that lagging behind in one area taints others and a whole paradigm of inequality surfaces. Therefore this is not uncommon that the people of areas otherwise known as North Bengal have a perennial sense of being victims of disparity. This goes against the very ethos of the Bangladeshi nation, for didn't we fight against disparity in all those years before 1971?
Mismanagement in one area shadows other achievements; and although it is now known that the railway services and infrastructure under the West Zone are being taken care of through projects with assistance from China, India and development partners, and government's own money; but BR in particular have to be extra cautious and efficient so that its success in one area does not offset the gains in others. Already some foreign donors have complained about certain aspects of some under-implementation projects; and although hope is that all grumbling will end with a peaceable resolution, things call extra watchfulness from the political leadership as well. For ultimately it is they who bear the ultimate responsibility of seeing through that all trains that leave the platforms of 489 stations in this country with more that 65 million passengers are up to the mark, awash with carriages beaming with all modern-day facilities.