The "Mango Special", a new train for transporting agricultural products, mostly mangoes, at a reduced rate began its journey today from Chapainawabganj, railway officials said.
The train will carry one of the country's most favoured fruits at lowered rates to ensure both farmers and consumers benefit.
Bangladesh Railway introduced the train to ease the transportation cost of mangoes for farmers amid the Covid-19 outbreak, Md Nasir Uddin, the railway's divisional transportation officer, said.
The rate for the train was reduced to Tk 1.30 per kilogramme from the usual Tk 3.
Both farmers and traders can avail the reduced rates, the railway official said.
On the first day today, around 1.64 tonnes of mangoes were booked from Chapainawabganj and six tonnes of mangoes from Rajshahi.
Each of the five coaches of the train has the capacity of transporting at least 45 tonnes and more bookings are expected.
Starting from Chapainawabganj at 4:00pm, the special train will reach Rajshahi at 5:20pm and Dhaka at 1:00am. The train will start again from Dhaka at 2:15am and reach Chapainawabganj at 10:00am.
Mango farmers expressed happiness at the initiative and said the new train would reduce the harassment they face when booking at different courier services at exorbitant prices.
They also said the new service had rekindled hope among farmers who were worried about the shortage of transport during the prevailing coronavirus situation.
Many mango farmers had given up hopes of profiting from their product in the current situation this year. Besides, the weather was not favourable, as it had rained during flowering and fruiting periods, reducing the production of mangoes.
Moreover, the cyclone Amphan and another storm had damaged around 10 percent of mangoes produced.
The introduction of the new train, however, has brought smiles to the farmers.
"I consider the special train a blessing for us," Anwarul Haque, president of Rajshahi Safe Mango Producers' Association, said.
"The booking process is easy and the mangoes will face less damage in trains than trucks," he said, adding the train would also save farmers a lot of money.
He said transportation of a kg of mangoes would not require more than Tk 2, including the expenditures for the porters, whereas, they used to spend more than Tk 16 when using courier services and Tk 6 for private trucks.
Starting from Chapainawabganj, the train would stop at different stations for loading mangoes.
Other than Amnura, Rohonpur, Sitalai, Rajshahi, Sardaha road, Arani Abdulpur, the train would stop at Sirajganj, Tangail, Mirjapur, Mouchak, Joydevpur, Tangi, and Airport station before reaching Kamalapur Railway station.
The train will carry different other goods, including agricultural products, round the year until further notice, railway official Md Nasir Uddin said.
Movement of the mango special has become possible as many trains are suspended amid the coronavirus situation.
"We can't say what will happen after coronavirus pandemic ends," he said.
Against a capacity of 22 trains, at least 34 trains ply on the routes of Western zone of railway in normal times. Movement of the mango special has become possible as many trains are suspended amid the coronavirus situation.
"We named the train after the mango to promote the region's identity… But we will accept different other goods as parcel," he said.
FREE TRANSPORT OF MANGOES LAUNCHED
Meanwhile, the directorate of posts introduced a service called "Krishak Bandhu Dak Seba" from June 2 for transportation of mangoes to Dhaka free of cost.
The service is meant for only mango farmers, said Md Shafiqul Alam, post master general of Rajshahi division.
Mango farmers can transport at least five tonnes of mangoes free of cost daily from Puthia, Charghat, Bagha upazilas of Rajshahi under the service, he said.