Rail cargo services have built up Bangladesh Railway's (BR) hopes to minimise its financial loss during the coronavirus pandemic when most of its services remained suspended.
According to BR officials, cargo services including special parcel and cross-border trains have surpassed its previous record of transporting goods in the country.
They said BR could transport goods of 70 rakes which was 47 in June last year. One rake is equal to 45 wagons.
Though they have yet to assess earnings from cargo services as its takes time, the officials said, BR earned Tk 55.81 million in June 2019 through train service between Bangladesh and India by transporting 113,644 million tonnes of goods in 47 rakes.
In May 2019, BR's earnings from the service was Tk 58.31 million which came by operating 48 rakes. BR introduced goods trains between the two neighbouring countries in consultation with Indian Railway from May 9 and operated 39 rakes including 24 rakes of onion, five rakes of stone and six rakes of fly ash.
More than 25 rakes of onion arrived here from India in June, followed by 15 rakes of stone.
Since the imposition of lockdown in the country from March 26, the state-owned train operator ran 1,281 trains with containers, tankers, food grains, Indian goods, fertilizers etc. until the end of June.
"Onion as cargo has been new for BR and its transportation by train is getting popularity," said an official preferring not to be named.
He said mango cargo services also received good response from the traders of its producing districts.
According to Railway Minister Nurul Islam Sujon, BR loses revenue of Tk 30 million every day as most of passenger train services remained suspended to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
As the government eased restrictions on public transport movement, it resumed 17 sets of intercity trains from May 31 with limiting sales of tickets for half of each of train capacity.
After resumption of passenger services, the officials said, BR's earning was poor as half of the seats against its permissible number on all trains remain vacant due to lack of passengers.
The official data showed that apart from transport of Indian goods, BR has operated 324 container trains and 423 tankers through its four borders. During the normal time, such service was very limited for transporting stone and fry ash, raw materials for cement industries and different projects.
Since the lockdown, the loss-making train operator was allowed to keep cargo services operative only at Chattogram port.
Later, it was allowed to introduce several cargo and freight services upon permission from the government's high-ups to facilitate transport of seasonal crops, foods and vegetables from different parts of the country due to suspension of road transport.