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Bangladesh - November 14, 2021

Stoneless railway tracks posing risk

Train derailment has now become a regular phenomenon

Golam Mostafa Jibon: Country’s railway has turned into death trap due to lack of necessary stones on the railway tracks. Somewhere there is not even a speck of stone, somewhere only the railway line is lying on the ground. Train derailment has now become a regular phenomenon. People are losing their lives in different accidents and the railway is incurring losses. But the railway authorities do not have any headaches in this regard except making some commitments.
It is learned that, the entire railway needs about 1.5 crore cubic feet (CFT) of stone, but only five per cent (7.5 lakh cubic feet).
There are several state-of-the-art trains with a speed of 120 km. These trains run at an average speed of only 67 km due to risky lines caused by lack of stones.
According to those concerned, the stone crisis is escalating day by day. The issue is getting pressed due to new projects.
Railway Minister Nurul Islam Sujan said, “Along with the adoption and implementation of new projects, importance is also being given to railways. Sophisticated trains are being run to increase passenger service.
He however said that, it was not possible to run the train at the prescribed speed as the problem of railways is old. Allocations are being increased regularly for railway repairs and stone laying.
At present, almost 100 percent of the stones have to be imported. Laying of stones on the railway tracks has been started. The allocation will be increased further in the future. Besides, no one will be spared, if there is any allegation of irregularities and corruption over tender manipulation.
According to the Ministry of Railways and the Railway Department, the railway currently has about 4,403 km of railway tracks. There is short supply of stones on the railway tracks for over three decades. According to the calculation of the line, there should be six to 10 inches of stone under the slipper. At the same time, there should be eight to 10 inches of stones on both sides of the line. The stone has to be placed evenly in the middle of the slipper.
At present, there are no stones anywhere on the railway tracks as per the rules. In most cases, soil is seen under the slipper. Weeds can be seen somewhere.
According to the Railway West and East Engineering Department, the stone crisis in the railway line has started almost three decades ago. Five to 10 percent of the total stone should throw on the track every year. As such, about 1.5 crore cubic feet (CFT) of stone is required annually. But in the fiscal year 2020-21, some 29,000 cubic feet of stone was laid on the railway track of western zone and 15,000 cubic feet in the eastern zone. Meanwhile, there are various irregularities and corruption ranging from tender to throwing stones in the line. The concerned officials of the railways are involved in irregularities and corruption.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is also investigating into several allegations brought against some unscrupulous railway officials. Several officials at the field level said that, the stoneless lines are posing risk, but long standing plans are not being taken.
It is learned that, about Tk 45 crore worth of stones were purchased for the Eastern and Western Railways in the last financial year. There have been allegations of irregularities in throwing these stones in the line. The contractor has taken the bill through illegal transactions with some railway officials without properly throwing stones. Some of the railway engineers seeking anonymity told The Daily Industry that, “From the nephews and nieces of the top bosses of the railways to the party leaders, they are controlling the tender of stones and procurement of goods.” At their behest, it is being decided who will get the tender.
Additional Chief Engineer of the Western Railway (Railways) Asadul Haque said, during the tenure of the present government, it was not possible to speed up the state-of-the-art trains added to the railway fleet only for stoneless railway lines. Last year, only 29,000 cubic meters of stone was given. I looked around the different sections – the lack of stones has taken a terrible form. The era will pass if we are to meet the demand as per the allocation. In the current financial year, we have planned to lay 50,000 cubic meters of stone. Last year, stones worth around Tk 23 crore were bought. There is no alternative to increase allocation in this sector.
Additional Director General (Infrastructure) of Railways Mohammad Kamrul Ahsan said, “If allotted, the required number of stones will be thrown in the line. One of the ways to keep the line fit is to have enough stones in the line.”
According to the Railways, about 90 per cent derailment of trains is due to stoneless railways. Appropriate stones are needed to ensure safe railways. Stones are imported from different countries including India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Stones have to be imported at 2-3 times higher prices.

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