Staff Correspondent: Bangladesh Railway has spent more than Tk 1714 crore to build a new railway line from Ishwardi to Pabna to Dhallarchar. The 79 km long road was built with 100% government funding, which was completed in June 2019. The main objective of constructing the Ishwardi-Dhalarchar railway line was to increase railway revenue. Along with the expansion of trade and industry in the respective areas, establishment of northern and southern connectivity with the capital, establishment of new and alternative rail routes of Trans Asian Railway and Regional Connectivity. However, one train per day is currently running on this railway, which has been built with huge investment.
The train named Dhalarchar Express-779 leaves Dhalarchar at 7:25 AM and reaches Rajshahi at 11:00 AM. The same train (Dhalarchar Express-780) leaves Rajshahi at 4:30 PM and reaches Dhalarchar at 8:15 PM. The train runs six days a week.
According to railway information, the project titled ‘Construction of new line of Bangladesh Railway from Ishwardi to Dhalarchar via Pabna’ was approved in the meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on October 5, 2010. Initially, the construction cost of the railway was estimated at Tk 983 crore. The tenure was from June 2010 to June 2015. However, the duration and cost were revised several times due to the protracted nature of the construction work. To complete the project, the railway has spent a total of Tk 1714.73 crore.
Communication experts say that running a single train on this railway, built with huge investment, is nothing but a waste of state money. Professor of Civil Engineering Department of Bangladesh University of Engineering (BUET) explained the matter. Hadiuzzaman told, “The general purpose of such investment is twofold. First is passenger service, second is revenue. The question remains as to how much passenger service is being provided in the region by operating only one train a day, how much the demand of passengers is being met. Did the authorities properly review the needs of passengers before constructing the railway?
A quarter of Tk 2,000 crore have been spent on the construction of the railway. It is a one-time investment. Apart from this, at present, railways have to spend daily on incidental work of train operation including station management, railway track maintenance. Operating costs should not vary much whether one train is operated or more than one. Despite this much investment, the railway is not supposed to generate any revenue due to the operation of only one train. I will say in one word, it is a waste of state money’, said the expert professor.
Dhalarchar Express train service on Ishwardi-Dhalarchar railway started from January 2020. After that, more than three and a half years passed, but the railway could not start any new train on the route. Officials of the company blamed the lack of manpower for this. When asked, Director General of Bangladesh Railways Kamrul Ahsan told, “The manpower in the railways is less than required.” Due to this we are not able to increase our operations on different routes even if we want to. However, the recruitment process is ongoing. If I get the required number of manpower, I will be able to start a new train on the Ishwardi-Dhalarchar route.
Meanwhile, President Md.Sahabuddinafter assuming office, visited Pabna on May 16 and announced the start of Dhaka-Pabna direct train. Later, on September 27, the President spoke to media persons about the matter at Pabna Circuit House Auditorium. He said that the file has gone to the Prime Minister’s Office for final approval of the issue of starting the train. The matter is under consideration of the Prime Minister. He asked the railway authorities to consider the overall issue. Railways have a profit and loss factor in running trains. Railway authorities are considering them.
Talking to the railway officials, it is said that a proposal has been sent from Bangladesh Railways to the Ministry of Railways to run a direct train between Dhaka-Pabna. It has been proposed to run a direct train from Pabna-Dhalarchar-Rajbari to Dhaka via Padma Bridge. Officials of the organization said that the matter will be finalized from the top level of the government.
Railways is planning to run trains from Dhaka via Padma Bridge in November. Officials of the operation branch of the organization said that there is a plan to run Sundarban Express of Dhaka-Khulna route, Benapole Express of Dhaka-Jesore route through two Padma Bridges. At present they are plying from Dhaka via Tongi-Joidebpur-Bangabandhu Setu-Ishwardi, Hardinge Bridge. When the movement of the two trains starts through the Padma bridge, the new route will be from Kamalapur to Gendaria, Keraniganj, Sirajdikhan, Srinagar, Mawa, Bhanga, Rajbari via Khulna and Jessore. Similarly, the Railways is preparing to run the Madhumati Express train running from Rajshahi to Bhanga to Dhaka via Padma Bridge.
Although the officials of Bangladesh Railways could not say for sure when the commercial activities will start. They indicated that commercial operations could begin in the next two weeks or early November. However, there is no plan to run Dhaka-Pabna direct train for now, said railway officials.
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