I am delighted to learn that The Guardian is going to publish a special issue on Bangladesh Railway, highlighting its history, activities, problems, potentials, achievements, developments and future plans.
I feel this is a time-congenial initiative of the Guardian. On this auspicious occasion I would like to mention that transport acts as a stimulus to economic growth and development of a country. Effective transport system is essential to achieve many of the proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development for Bangladesh. But, the transport sector in Bangladesh faces the challenges to provide cost-effective as well as equitable services and opportunities in the densely populated country, mostly dependent on imported fossil fuels.
Railway, a principal mode of land transport, plays vital roles as an effective mode of transport in Bangladesh. Travelling by railway in Bangladesh is more safe, energy efficient, environment-friendly, comfortable and reliable than other modes of transport. Railway can offer safer and faster means for inter-city travelers at more reasonable cost than road transport. Railway produces less greenhouse gases, requires less fuel and less land per unit of operation compared to road transport. The railway in Bangladesh has also the potential to play a major role in the context of regional transport and trade.
There is on denial of the fact that Bangladesh Railway (BR) is playing an active role in the development of the country and continues to provide important social services to the nation. Realizing this, a Railway Master Plan was approved earlier for planned development of railway sector in Bangladesh. By this time, many projects have been completed and a number of ongoing projects are being implemented. However, the existing Railway Master Plan was prepared in 2007 and the assumptions and situation on which it was founded are now over ten years old. Besides, BR’s market has changed due to increasing competition from the road sector. Hence to cater to the present demand, the existing Railway Master lan is being updated.
This Master Plan is designed with the spirit of the National Land Transport Policy (NLTP), Seventh Five Year Plan, Vision 2021, the National Integrated Multimodal Transport Policy (NIMTP), International agreements like Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) Network Agreement and SASEC policy guidelines. It incorporates those to make a comprehensive plan as well as a long term strategy to achieve certain objectives, explore potential capabilities and meet emerging needs for transportation of passengers and freight. The updated Railway Master Plan will allow BR to provide enhanced maintenance facilities, procure new rolling stock, unify track gauge, modernize signaling system and expand its network, which will enable BR to increase its share in the transport market of the country.
The overall goal of this updated Railway Master Plan is to assist the Government in translating the strategic goals and objectives of BR and MOR into a physical plan to identify the areas to be focused for resources to meet future demand. The implementation program of the updated Railway Master Plan has been divided into six phases of 5 years each over the period from July 2016 to June 2045.
The Railway Master Plan is a living document. After each phase has elapsed, the document shall be reviewed to match with new technology, policy and future demands. I hope and believe that the Railway Master Plan will be implemented successfully with the cooperation and assistance of all concerned agencies and development partners.
It is especially to inform all that under the charismatic leadership of our Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, BR has received special attention from the Government, particularly in taking development activities and has been one of the highest recipients of the annual development budget of the Government. The establishment of the Ministry of Railways (MOR) is also a milestone of the Honorable Prime Minister, which has accelerated the pace of rail transportation development as well as socio-economic growth of the country.
Finally, I wish The Guardian special issue on Bangladesh Railway a grand success.
Md. Mofazzel Hossain