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Dhaka Tribune

Expanding railways the right way forward

Update : 11 Mar 2015, 06:02 PM

We welcome the announcement made by the railways minister of plans to expand the rail network across all the country’s 64 districts.

Projects are already underway in eight of the 20 districts, including Bagerhat, Cox’s Bazar, Narail, and Satkhira, which are not already served by rail. With the opening of a new line from Tarakandi to Bangabandhu Bridge East Side and the closed Kalukhali-Bhatiapara and Pachuria-Faridpur rail lines due to be re-opened, there is a good prospect of this target being met.

However, the government still needs to be more ambitious. Railways are a vastly underused communications resource in Bangladesh, serving on average around 65 million passengers a year.

The most vital challenge is to modernise tracks and trains so that faster services can be introduced. A key advantage of developing railways is that they already cover much of the country, so useful improvements are more about upgrading tracks and trains than about finding land.

For a nation of our size, there is no reason, in principle, why an upgraded network would not allow all districts and corners of the land to be reached quickly. It offers an economically and environmentally efficient way to help the economy maximise the benefits of our high population density.

Better and newer railways would also facilitate decentralisation by encouraging more people to live outside of the capital, reducing pressure on Dhaka’s land area, .

Making railways faster and more attractive is an integral part of the infrastructure investment required to lift the economy to middle-income level.

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