Bangladesh Railway is one of the oldest institutions in Bangladesh. Its history dates back to 1862. It has already completed 156 years of its glorified journey and success and steps into 157 this year. This is of course a big matter for an institution to reach such a dignified position by passing over a long arduous way. The British regime first introduced the rail communication in this region of the Indo-Pak Subcontinent on 15th November 1862 with the construction of 53-km BG line between Darshana and Jagati as the only mode of land transport to cater to the transport needs of Bengal.
As a result, rail communication gradually started expanding towards the various corners of Assam, Bengal and other parts of the Indo-Pak Subcontinent. Accordingly, Bengal and Asam Railway was established on 1st January 1942. After the partition of Indo-Pak Subcontinent in 1947, India and Pakistan became two separate states. Pakistan became an independent state comprising the parts of West Pakistan and East Pakistan. Consequently, Bengal and Assam Railway was divided, and the portion of Bengal and Assam Railway, the route-length of 2604 kms which was existed within the boundary of East Pakistan, was named as Eastern Bengal Railway by the Government of Pakistan.
On 1st of February 1961, Eastern Bengal Railway was renamed as Pakistan Eastern Railway and in 1962, a Railway Board was formed and management of Railway was placed under the Provincial Government of East Pakistan. After the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, Pakistan Eastern Railway was named as Bangladesh Railway by the Government of Bangladesh. At that time, Bangladesh Railway had 2858.23-km rail line, 470 stations, 486 locomotives, 1643 coaches and 16823 wagons. This is in brief the beginning history of Bangladesh Railway.
Today, Bangladesh Railway is a vast institution, spreading from one end to the other of the country. After the inauguration of Jamuna Bridge on 23rd June 1998, Railway connection established over the Jamuna Bridge has been a milestone of Railway development across the country. On 14 August 2003, direct train service was started between Eastern and Western Zones of Bangladesh Railway. At present, BR covers the route-length of total 2955.53 kms throughout the country and has 466 stations, 272 locomotives, 1578 coaches and 4,309 wagons. Out of 2955.53-km route-length, 1846.09-km MG route, 676.66-km BG route and 432.78-km DG route.
Bangladesh Railway has already connected 44 districts of the country, covering the important areas of all these districts and plans to connect its network with every district headquarters to fulfil the present and future demands of the rail transport and to keep pace with the changing situation of the transport sector of Bangladesh in future. It is true that the transport sector of Bangladesh faces the challenges to provide cost-effective and comfortable services and opportunities due to densely populated country, mostly dependent on imported fuels.
But, transport by railway in Bangladesh is of course considered cost-effective, safer, energy efficient, environment-friendly, comfortable and reliable than other modes of transport. Railway also produces less greenhouse gases, requires less fuel and less land per unit of operation compared to road transport. In view of all these, since there is no alternative to effective transport system for sustainable development of a country, Bangladesh Railway can play more effective roles in attaining the goals of Vision 2021 and Vision 2041 that our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already set for achieving economic growth and ensuring sustainable development in Bangladesh and turning Bangladesh into a dignified status from LDC (least developed country) to DC (developing country) to DC (developed country) by 2041.
Realizing this, the present government, under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has identified the problems and potentials of rail transport and given special attention to the development of Bangladesh Railway and undertaken a number of steps to implement the overall developments in rail transport across the country. Among many of these epoch-making steps of the government, the establishment of the Ministry of Railway (MOR), one of the highest allocations of the annual development budget for Railway and framing of a Comprehensive Master Plan for Railway development are highly mentionable.
All these have been possible due to active initiatives of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. So, being imbued with these initiatives, BR authorities have already implemented a good number of development projects, many are being implemented and many more are under process of implementation to improve the overall performance of rail transport, deliver quality and uninterrupted services to the people and ensure the punctuality of train services so that BR can usher in a new era of land transport in Bangladesh.
All these steps and efforts of the government and BR authorities have attracted our attention. We appreciate all of them and wish their efforts a great success. So, in this issue of The Guardian, we have focused on the activities, problems, potentials, achievements and future plans of BR, including the various initiatives and commitments of the present government in ensuring better train services for all citizens of the country by 2021.
Accordingly, this special issue contains the valuable messages of Railway Minister, Railway Secretary and a good number of articles contributed by BR high officials and railway experts, including an interview of the Director General of BR. These stories are highly informative, educative and interesting as well. We believe this issue will attract not only the attention of our learned policy makers and our valued readers at home and abroad, rather we believe all of them will of course find interest in it as well. Let’s all hope for a better Railway and for a better Bangladesh.