The train accident at Kulaura, Moulvibazar has once again exposed the weakness of this mode of mass transportation in this country. Several causes have been cited for this major train accident in the country. Although initial fatality is only four, the number of injured reported to be over 200 - many of them critically - points to the fact that the figure may rise. The prospect of those losing limbs or otherwise, becoming handicapped for life, is frightening and no one knows now how many of them will embrace such a fate. No compensation is enough for the dead or those left handicapped. But monetary compensation for the families of the dead and the injured can at least help them overcome the pecuniary hardship. So, the families of the dead and the injured should be paid adequate compensation.
Now that several causes have been hinted at by both experts and laymen for the accident at the spot called Boromchal where six coaches of the Upaban Express derailed while crossing a bridge there. One such cause is said to be overcrowding of the train's compartment, another is misalignment of wheels, yet another is the gathering of extra speed at that point. Locals, however, claim that the rail tracks were faulty. They further claim that whenever trains passed the spot, the tracks creaked and swung because of loose fitting of joints. This is not all. A report has it that usually 12 to 14 compartments are put up with an engine but in case of the Upaban Express as many as 17 such carriages were fastened. The fact that the last carriage went off the track first and its impact caused the other five to fall into the canal or on its bank is quite understandable. Can it be that the drag was too much for the engine and at the bridge point the faulty track failed to maintain the balance?
The two probe committees already formed are expected to pinpoint the real cause of the accident. But will it be made public? The Kulaura accident should not be reviewed in an isolated context. There is a larger picture of the ailing railway. Many more Kulaura tragedies are actually waiting to happen. When rickety tracks are repaired with bamboos and the engineers declare the tinkering is appropriate, one can draw the conclusion that all is not well on the railway front. Those who have travelled by the Moitree train to Kolkata from Dhaka can experience the difference between railway tracks of West Bengal and Bangladesh. The journey from Gede up to Kolkata is smooth but the train cannot gather speed in the Bangladesh part because the tracks are weak on account of a lack of required amount of stone chips supporting the sleepers.
Much as the policymakers may claim that they are serious about improving the Bangladesh Railway, the ground reality does not substantiate their claim. They have, however, admitted that the railway has been subjected to neglect for long and therefore is a candidate for priority treatment in terms of investment and modernisation. Unfortunately, what is preached is not practised. Even the inadequate investment is not wisely used. One of the glaring examples of thoughtless expenditure is on Demu train which is a misfit here because its height and platforms' height do not match and, allegedly, it is suffocating inside. The Bangladesh Railway (BR) needs a comprehensive long-term plan complemented by adequate investment for its phase-wise improvement.