BR losses swell despite big rise in development allocation

FHM Humayan Kabir | Published: June 27, 2019 09:52:38 | Updated: June 29, 2019 10:50:25

The Bangladesh Railway (BR) has seen its year-on-year losses swelling over the last one decade despite a dramatic increase in the budgetary allocation for its development, insiders said on Wednesday.

The losses have jumped 145 per cent in the last fiscal year (FY), compared to the losses incurred in FY 2010, they said.

On the other hand, the allocation for the railway under the Annual Development Programme (ADP) for the upcoming FY 2020 saw an increase of 533 per cent, compared to the allocation in FY 2008-09.

But the railway service still remains in bad shape and it has even failed to properly maintain the time schedule of passenger and freight trains, said experts and passengers.

Considering the importance of the railway, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina-led government after assuming power in 2009 gave the highest priority to the BR and started increasing ADP allocation for this sector significantly every year.

Under the ADP for the upcoming FY 2020, the government has allocated Tk 121.05 billion for the railway sector, up 533 per cent from the allocation of Tk 19.12 billion in FY 2008-09.

But the railway continued to incur losses every year.

According to official data, the BR posted a loss of Tk 14.32 billion in FY 2017-18, 145 per cent up from the loss of Tk 5.84 billion in FY 2010.

In FY 2018, the Bangladesh Railway spent Tk 29.18 billion against its revenue earning of Tk 14.86 billion.

A senior BR official said the government was providing increased funds every year for developing the rail infrastructure and enhancing the capacity of the BR to ensure improved services for the passengers.

"Since 2009, the BR has seen a lot of development as we have installed new rail tracks, converted the metre-gauge tracks into dual-gauge or broad-gauge ones, upgraded stations and the signalling system and increased the fleet of trains," he said.

According to the BR, it has installed 330.15 km new rail tracks, converted 248 km metre-gauge tracks into dual-gauge, rehabilitated 1,145km lines, rebuilt 117 stations and constructed 295 bridges in the last nine years.

Besides, it has procured 46 locomotives, 20 sets of DEMU and 270 passenger coaches, 516 wagons for carrying goods, and rehabilitated 430 carriages and 227 wagons.

The BR claimed that it has launched 127 new trains and expanded the routes of 38 trains.

But passengers said that despite huge fund allocations over the last one decade, the service of the state-owned Railway is still very poor and incurring losses.

"If we cannot get tickets even before five days ahead of our journey, how the Railway is incurring losses? Despite big spending on development, why its revenue earnings are not increasing?" Jagangir Alam, a passenger, posed the question.

A Planning Commission official said they have earmarked a record allocation of Tk 121.05 billion for the railway under the ADP for the upcoming FY 2020, aiming at improvement of services.

The proposed allocation is 70.42 per cent higher than the current allocation of Tk 71.03 billion in the revised ADP for the outgoing FY 2019.

Passengers and experts said the state-run Railway has failed to develop its infrastructure up to the mark and the average speed remains within 50km per hour like in the past.

Presently, the BR is implementing some 40 development projects.


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