This refers to an article published in a local English daily on 14th September about the sorry state of Bangladesh Railways. Elsewhere in the world, railways are being re-vitalised and developed as a carefree, cheaper and relaxed means of long distance transportation, independent of weather conditions. It is getting popular day by day. However, it seems that it is not so in Bangladesh, where it is being grossly neglected. In most countries, new routes are being introduced, trains are speeding up, tracks are being upgraded and frequency of service is being increased.
In Bangladesh, on the other hand, we are closing down railway routes, reducing service frequency, while private road transport is being supported by infrastructure investment! The reality is that, our railways are deteriorating, while private inter-district bus services are expanding day to day. However BRTC (the public road transport entity) like BR (Bangladesh Railway), is also speedily going downhill.
The way-out is to disband the Ministry of Communications, and eliminate all government inputs in railway management. Government's control will be limited to the statutory control that we have over private enterprises and nothing further. This risk must be taken. Alternatively we may hand it over to private sector against long term low interest bonds which can be redeemed in ten years or more if necessary by the owners against stage-wise periodic agreed payment terms.
The railway should be a private/public jointly owned, and an independent commercial entity, with government's financial guarantee for an agreed period. Needed capital investment, assets (rolling stock) renovation, upgrading of track and organising reliable door to door cargo service should be provided. Customer service and satisfaction should be the management's aim. The organisation has to be trimmed of excess manpower and corruption if any. Quality of passenger service and cleanliness has to be strictly supervised and maintained and customer's confidence restored.
This could be the way out for our really sick and fast deteriorating railway system. It needs to be re-vitalised in overall public interest, on a priority basis, by this democratic government.