The Financial Express
Swasti Lankabangla Swasti Lankabangla

State rail operator fares badly

It fails most of development work targets

| Updated: September 14, 2020 13:56:06

State rail operator fares badly

With the highest budgetary allocation in the past five years, the Bangladesh Railway's (BR) performance has been recorded unsatisfactory as it failed to attain most of the targets.

According to official records, the BR's budgetary allocation during the period of the seventh five-year plan from July 2015 to June 2020 has been doubled from Tk 73 billion to Tk 146 billion.

But the state-owned rail operator could not meet 88 per cent of its target to develop new tracks and 73 per cent of its targeted upgradation work.

It had set a target to construct 1,966.25-kilometre new railway tracks but was able to complete only 237.28km track under the seventh five-year plan.

The state-owned entity initiated to build 856.25km rail lines and dual-gauge double tracks measuring 1,110km to increase its line capacity.

But the BR has completed only 193.44km rehabilitation and upgradation work out of the 725km target.

Besides, it is yet to complete procurement of 100 locomotives during the period, but the official said the procurement is in progress.

The BR had a target to procure 1,125 passenger coaches including 550 metre gauge ones. But it could procure 478 coaches and it has still to procure 647 coaches to fulfil the target.

In the case of rehabilitation of 300 coaches, the lone rail operating agency was able to complete rehabilitation of 200 coaches.

BR director general Mohammad Shamsuzzaman told the FE that development work in the areas of all the aforesaid components is a continuous process as per the seventh five-year plan.

He, however, said the eighth five-year plan would be vital for the BR to organise itself afresh as desired by the people and the government.

The BR started focusing on development work in 2009, leading to increased budgetary allocation every year, Mr Shamsuzzaman added.

With increased budget, the agency is the highest recipient of Tk 121.75 billion from the government in the current fiscal year.

"The BR couldn't perform well due to a gap between the planning and the ability of implementing big projects," said an official.

He, however, said the BR wasted project time acquiring land and completing procedure of loan agreements on foreign-aided projects.

Sources said the BR failed to attain the new line development target due to a delay in executing costly projects like Dohazari-Cox's Bazar rail line, Padma rail link and Khulna-Mongla port rail link.

As these projects are yet to overcome land acquisition or fund-related problems, the BR is unlikely to achieve the target set in the eighth five-year plan.

Meanwhile, the BR is working on setting a target for the eighth five-year plan, including the completion of the remaining task.

Sources said massive challenges lie ahead as the authorities have to focus on new components like electric train, high-speed train, circular and modern commuter train in the next five years.

As the BR's performance in the area of organisational reform was almost zero under the last seventh five-year plan it is sharpening its focus on it in the eighth five-year plan.

The Public Administration Ministry allowed it just in August last to hire 49,000 staffers to fill the vacancies created for reasons like golden handshake in the 1990s.


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