Transit planned but rail tracks in sorry state
Hundred-year-old railway tracks and stations in Chapainawabganj are in a deplorable condition although the governments of Bangladesh and India have agreed to use Rohanpur-Singhabad rail link for transporting goods to Nepal from Bangladesh.
A railway link between Rohanpur and Singhabad of Indian Maldah district to facilitate transit from Bangladesh to Nepal through India was decided during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's recent visit to India.
About 80 percent sleepers of 52-kilometre Chapainawabganj-Rajshahi route and 39-kilometre Chapainawabganj-Amnura-Rohanpur route are damaged and without adequate stone chips, railway department sources said.
To avoid accident on the risky route, trains run very slowly, between 10 and 15 kilometres an hour, still at least five incidents of train derailment occurred on the two routes last year, they said.
The railway tracks on Chapainawabganj-Rohanpur route, which is important for export-import business, got damaged due to lack of maintenance in last three decades, said Mohammad Moniruzzaman, stationmaster of Chapainawabganj railway station.
Wishing anonymity, an official of the station said the government usually earned Tk 2-3 lakh per day from this station 15 years ago but it now earns only between Tk 300 and 400 a day.
The government earned Tk 4.9 crore in revenue from 1,30,618 tonnes of imported goods at Rohanpur railway port in 2008-2009 fiscal year while the railway department earned Tk 87.60 lakh by carrying passengers and goods, railway sources said.
Exporters and importers, who use Sonamasjid land port, said they have to bear 30 to 40 percent additional carrying cost for transporting goods on roads as they avoid Rohanpur railway route due to its dilapidated condition.
Nepal and Bhutan are interested to use Mongla port for their international trade. A high official business delegation of Nepal visited Rohanpur railway station and saw its facilities in 2008. Rohanpur-Khulna rail route can help the two countries transport their goods up to Mongla port at a cheap cost and short time.
Officials of Railway's West Zone in Rajshahi said the government recently sanctioned Tk 155.46 crore for repairing rail lines, 11 station buildings and platforms, 21 bridges and culverts and signals of Chapainawabganj-Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj-Amnura-Rohanpur routes.
Earlier on August 22 in 2007, May 29 in 2008 and December 22 in 2008, railway department called tender for repairing and modernising the rail lines but all the times the tender process was cancelled due to various reasons.
In September 2009, a tender was invited again. The tender is now under process and construction work would begin this year, said Additional Chief Engineer (Track) Mozammel Haque.
Rafiqul Islam, president of Exporters and Importers Association at Sonamasjid land port, said Bangladesh has a bright prospect of business through Rohanpur rail port due to its communication facilities with India.