Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Full steam ahead: Revitalizing Bangladesh Railway

Journeying to redefine connectivity, prosperity, and inclusivity for all

Update : 31 Mar 2024, 08:59 AM

In the bustling landscape of Bangladesh, where the heartbeat of progress resonates in every corner, the role of railways in fostering communication and economic growth cannot be overstated. Since its inception in 1862, Bangladesh Railway has been the lifeline for millions, offering a vital mode of transportation that transcends mere convenience to become an integral part of the nation's fabric. Yet, despite its historical significance and undeniable potential, the railway sector has often found itself in the shadows of progress, grappling with challenges that hinder its ability to realize its full potential.

At the heart of the matter lies a dichotomy: While trains remain the preferred choice for many, especially during festive seasons like Eid, the sector is plagued by persistent financial losses year after year. The reasons behind this predicament are multifaceted, ranging from issues of inadequate supervision to infrastructure shortcomings and a shortage of skilled manpower.

To address these challenges and steer Bangladesh Railway towards a trajectory of sustainable growth, concerted efforts are imperative. The establishment of a separate Ministry of Railways in 2011 signalled a commitment to prioritize the sector's development, accompanied by substantial budget allocations aimed at bolstering infrastructure. However, a closer examination reveals that while infrastructure projects have received due attention, the focus on addressing operational deficiencies and enhancing passenger experience has been relatively subdued.

Central to the revitalization of Bangladesh Railway is the imperative to modernize and expand its network to cater to evolving demands. Projects aimed at extending railway links, reducing travel distances, and connecting previously underserved regions exemplify steps in the right direction. The ambitious 30-year master plan underscores a vision to ensure comprehensive rail connectivity across the nation, laying the groundwork for inclusive development.

Yet, infrastructure enhancements alone cannot suffice without a commensurate investment in human capital. The acute shortage of operational manpower, with thousands of positions remaining vacant, underscores a pressing need for recruitment and training initiatives. Adequate staffing levels are pivotal not only for ensuring the smooth functioning of operations but also for enhancing service quality and safety standards.

One of the perennial challenges confronting Bangladesh Railway is the pervasive issue of ticket black-marketing, which not only erodes revenue but also undermines the trust of passengers. While the transition to online ticket management represents a step forward, ensuring its efficacy necessitates robust enforcement mechanisms and stringent anti-corruption measures. Furthermore, efforts to standardize food prices and improve catering services are crucial for enhancing passenger satisfaction and ensuring value for money.

Bangladesh Railway stands at a pivotal juncture, poised to realize its potential as a catalyst for national development

Safety remains paramount in the realm of railway operations, with adequate security measures being necessary to instill confidence among passengers. The rising frequency of stone pelting on trains has elevated into a grave concern, posing serious risks of injury to passengers, train drivers, and bystanders alike. Concurrently, the prevalence of theft, including the brazen snatching of phones from windows of slow-moving trains, further undermines passenger safety and warrants urgent attention. The deployment of railway security forces must be augmented to combat theft and vandalism effectively, particularly in rural and commuter train settings. Additionally, investments in signal infrastructure are essential to minimize delays and optimize operational efficiency.

Moreover, the decentralization of railway management through the establishment of additional regional divisions holds promise in facilitating more agile and responsive decision-making processes. By devolving administrative functions closer to the grassroots level, Bangladesh Railway can foster greater synergy between local needs and overarching strategic objectives.

In reimagining the future of Bangladesh Railway, a paradigm shift is imperative -- one that transcends mere expansion to embrace a holistic approach to service delivery. Transparency, accountability, and customer-centricity must underpin every facet of railway management, ensuring that passenger needs remain at the forefront of decision-making.

Bangladesh Railway stands at a pivotal juncture, poised to realize its potential as a catalyst for national development. While challenges abound, they are not insurmountable. With strategic investments, visionary leadership, and a steadfast commitment to excellence, Bangladesh Railway can emerge as a beacon of progress, heralding a new era of connectivity, prosperity, and inclusivity for all. Additionally, ensuring competitive fare structures compared to other modes of transportation will not only attract more passengers but also enhance the railway's appeal as a comfortable and cost-effective travel option.

Moreover, railway authorities must identify and address the barriers hindering the successful implementation of railway services. By exploring these barriers and seizing opportunities, such as its environmentally friendly nature compared to buses and other road transport, Bangladesh Railway can enhance its service offerings, improve efficiency, and ultimately better serve commuters and citizens. It is time to embark on this journey towards a railway renaissance, where the aspirations of millions are propelled towards a brighter tomorrow. By prioritizing these factors, Bangladesh Railway can significantly contribute to the country's economic development and enhance the overall quality of life for its citizens.

 

ASM Rafad Asgar is a Research Associate, Bangladesh Institute of Governance and Management.

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