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The Financial Express

Tapping the potential of railway

| Updated: August 28, 2021 21:53:13


Tapping the potential of railway

Many middle-aged and elderly people can recall the travels in 'Inter Class' railway carriages. This 'class' has long been abolished. According to experts in the Sub-continental railway journeys, this class was introduced by the British rulers. It was meant for the native or 'kala sahibs', people who were above the plebeian masses, but couldn't earn the capability to travel with the 'gora sahibs' sitting in the same train bogey.A large number of the middle-class railway travellers used to undertake their journeys in the Inter Class in the British colonial times. This funny class was abolished during the last days of the Pakistani rule. In independent Bangladesh, many people with moderately high income could afford to travel in the 'Second Class', with a lot of the rich passengers travelling in the 'First Class'. If the inside of a bogey remains clean, especially the toilets, and roomy, a railway journey inside a Third Class could also be as enjoyable as that inside a 'Second Class'. These days the trains operated by the Bangladesh Railway have a lot of broadly divided classes. They include AC Chair Class, Snigdha, Shobhon and Sulov classes etc.

But the point is, while on a railway journey a scrupulous passenger doesn't attach much importance to the 'class' he or she has boarded, as they do on the trains' capability to reach their destinations on time. They also keep in consideration the imperative of safety. In the present Bangladesh, the railway journeys are relatively safer than road transport. But how long they will have the capability to operate free of unpredictable hazards is a question worth pondering. The print media continue to report about the decaying process of the railway. The latest of such gloomy reports says the railway these days is dependent on rundown locomotives. It has been identified that 175 out 263 engines are over-aged. Moreover, 78 of them are more than 50 years old. The information is highly alarming. That the trains in the country are mostly operated by nearly-ramshacklelocomotives sounds weird. It's because around 7,000 stations are served by scores of inter-city, express and local trainsmanoeuvred by these locomotives.

Since its opening on Kolkata-Kushtia line in 1862, railway travel in the eastern part of Bengal continued to expand without any long gap. With the inclusion of Goalundo Ghat bringing Narayanganj under the travel's range through steamer, and later connecting Dhaka with a short-distance rail route, the eastern Bengal found itself in its railway era. The Narayanganj-Dhaka passenger rail service began in 1886, being a part of the route that reached up to Mymensingh. In fact, contrary to the present state of semi-stalemate in the Bangladesh railway services, viz. travels, this mode of transport began progressing spectacularly in the independent Bangladesh.The 24-year Pakistan era remained concentrated on the Dhaka-Chattogram line only. That the routes once connected Dhaka with the southern, northern and north-eastern parts remained out of the knowledge of Pakistan Railway's policymakers. The eastern part of Bengal could be defined as quite fortunate. It saw its maiden railway service on the Darshana-Jagoti line in greater Kushtia back in 1861. The 33-mile (53.11km) broad gauge passenger route served as the pioneering railway track in East Bengal.

In the history of railway in Bengal, the merger of Bengal Railway Company and Assam Bengal Railway in 1905 emerged as a watershed event. In fact, the growth of the present railway network in independent Bangladesh is chiefly based on this critical merger. Many blame the dearth of pragmatism and foresight for the Bangladesh Railway's faltering growth.The thought that a great future lies ahead of the country's railway has kept eluding the authorities over the last five decades. The long-distance rail travellers have continued being weaned off by the inter-district and inter-city bus services. The authorities are little bothered.

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