The Bangladesh Railway (BR) has taken a move to purchase 54 metre-gauge (MG) passenger carriages -- to operate exclusive luxurious tourist trains from Dhaka to Cox's Bazar -- despite its plan to convert the MG lines into broad-gauge (BG) ones.
Sources said the Planning Commission (PC) recently sent back the preparatory development project proposal (PDPP) on the purchase. It asked various queries - including the reasons for buying MG carriages, when it planned to convert the rail corridor into a BG one.
According to the PDPP, the BR planned to buy six MG tourist cars, 13 air-conditioned sleepers, 11 AC
premium cars, 11 AC chairs, seven power cars, one AC dining car, and guard break at an estimated cost of Tk 3.37 billion. The estimated project cost is US$ 57.28 million.
It said the plan was taken as per the 8th five-year plan and the 20-year master plan to increase revenue earning of the state-owned train operator. The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) expressed interest in financing the project.
However, the BR has already converted 248 km line into dual gauge (DG) and taken various projects to convert existing 50,937 km MG track into DG.
Official sources said the BR's plan to convert the entire Dhaka-Chattogram corridor into DG has not been taken yet. The corridor has been upgraded with double lines, with two-lane tracks in MG.
The BR has started purchasing BG locomotives and carriages as per its policy shift. But the entity has also brought MG locomotives and carriages, as many locomotives and carriages are old enough to run the existing train services.
The Ministry of Railways held a meeting to meet the queries of the PC.
Officials said it was late to start conversion of the MG track into a DG on Dhaka-Chattogram rail corridor. But, the plan to buy the MG passenger carriages for tourist trains was taken, as conversion of over 300 km corridor into DG would take time.
"It will take time to convert the existing Dhaka-Chattogram rail track - at least 20 years," said one official.
He also said only the track from Dohazari, Chattogram to Cox's Bazar has single-line DG track.
The BR has recently completed feasibility study on the Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox's Bazar rail corridor to identify the missing links for its upgradation to DG, but its project proposals and financing are yet to be final.
The BR has developed two separate DG double lines, and is now constructing 3rd and 4th lines from Dhaka to Tongi.
Two more projects to upgrade the tracks to DG double line from Tongi to Joydebpur and from Akhaura to Laksam are now under construction.