Locomotive: The motive power of Bangladesh Railway

Md. Monjur-Ul-Alam Chowdhury
Joint Director General (Mechanical)
Bangladesh Railway

Railway is a century old mode of transport where safe and on time mobility is the main aspect. Mobility in Railway is achieved when a train either passenger or goods moves from its origin to the destination. If trains don’t move, then the railway is a dead organization. Mobility in railway is achieved only through active locomotive. Locomotive is the only means of pulling a train in a Railway. That’s why locomotive is called the ‘motive power’ of a railway. A strong fleet of locomotive literally indicates a strong railway. Speed, Punctuality, running safety, revenue earnings, sustainability, image, passenger satisfaction everything of a railway depends on performance of locomotive fleet. This is equally true for Bangladesh Railway also.

What’s the present condition of locomotive fleet of Bangladesh Railway? To understand current situation of BR locomotive. Let’s take a look into the near past. Actually BR has been neglected for years together. We can recall the time in 1992when through a peculiar policy called “golden handshake” huge number of potential workers from all the trades of BR were force-retired. Not only that, embargo imposed on new staff recruitment, development budget reduced to almost zero. In fact all possible ways were adopted to kill BR permanently. These steps were taken for BR by the then government with the help of the donor agencies like World Bank, ADB and others. Very important to notice that these were done when huge investment was recurrently made in the road sector in the name of constructing so called “BishwoRoads”. So it’s not hard to understand that BR was taken out of its competitiveness for ensuring vested interest of the national and international pressure groups. Infact the then regime had taken a policy to eliminate railways from Bangladesh forever.

Because of the above said situation BR’s all sorts of development remained totally stopped almost for the 30 years. The whole organization had been decaying for years together As such no locomotive, carriage, wagon was procured. Last 39 Nos. of locomotives procured during the time span of 1999 to 2009. As a result BR has been operating with age old locomotives for last 45years. Right now BR has178 Nos. Meter Gauge and 92 Nos.Broad Gauge locomotives. The table below shows the age profile of BR locomotive.
It’s easily visible that Bangladesh Railway has been operating with mostly age-expiredlocomotives. A locomotive fleet like this is never good for a railway which is striving for recovery from nearly destroyed condition. At least 100 locomotives should have been replaced long ago for healthy condition of BR.

However with the unprecedented steps taken by the present patriotic government from last 2011 through creating a separate ministry, ministry of railway, BR has been developing in a very rapid pace. Its Network is expanding in different parts of the country and the sectional capacity of the existing network is being increased. Increasing speed of the running trains is now a demand of the generation. Moreover policy of uni-gauging has been adopted with the view to converting whole network as Broad Gauge. As part of that step now dual gauge conversion is in progress. In this situation replacement of the old locomotives and addition of new locomotive have become one of the prime tasks of BR to execute with utmost urgency.

In this case replacement of age expired MG and BG locomotive has to be done immediately. Addition of new locomotives to current fleet forexpansion of locomotive fleet should be considered mainly for BG. Keeping these suspects in view, Bangladesh railway has taken the following locomotive procurement projects both from MG and BG.
It’s very important to note that the locomotive maintenance installations of BR are also century old and of obsolete technology. Operating modern locomotives with these old installations like loco sheds and loco workshops is quite impossible. In order to build a modern railway these loco sheds and loco shops have to be modernized and new installations to be constructed. Keeping this in view BR has submitted a TAPP for consideration of ADB for review, redesign, relocation and new construction of rolling stock maintenance installations of BR. This TAPP is so important that this project will actually play as the master plan for Rolling stock maintenance of BR which in turn will enhance strength of BR as a modern railway.

Finally it can be said that Railway development must be in a coordinated way so that all-round development is ensured. Otherwise unilateral development will not bring fruitful result. Right now if we look into the development progress of BR we can easily see that locomotive side is still the weakest side where well-thought development steps should be exercised. We hope that Bangladesh Railway will overcome the lacking soon in its motive power and emerge as a strong and confident mode of transport.