Electric Train Service on N’ganj-Dhaka-Ctg Route: Finally on the right track
Bangladesh Railway (BR) is finally going to start a feasibility study to explore whether electric train service can be introduced on Narayanganj-Dhaka-Chattogram route.
The planning minister recently approved a Tk 15.07-crore project for carrying out a study and detail design to introduce electric train service for the first time in the country.
The development came more than six years after BR took the initiative and over five years after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave the directive to introduce the system, which is considered cost-effective and environment-friendly.
Now, BR has to conduct the study and detail design within April 2023. If the study finds that operation of such trains is viable, BR would take on another project to electrify the route.
In contrast, the neighbouring country -- India -- will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first electric passenger train's introduction in 2025.
Under the system, a railway electric traction system supplies electric power to locomotives, and so, trains do not require any onboard fuel. An overhead electricity line has to be installed along the railway track to transmit energy.
Currently, BR operates diesel-powered trains on its 3,019-kilometre railway network.
According to some BR officials and relevant documents, introduction of electric trains would reduce operation costs by 35 percent and maintenance costs by 30 to 50 percent. Besides, it would reduce carbon emission by 20 to 30 percent.
A PICTURE IN CONTRAST
India's first passenger train started operating on April 16, 1853. After nine years, rail-transport in Bangladesh began on November 15, 1862.
The world's first electric railway was installed in Brighton, England in 1883. The first electric passenger train in India started operating between Victoria Terminus and Kurla in February 1925.
Indian Railway electrified 45,881 km of its rail lines, about 71 percent of its total broad-gauge network, by March this year, according to the website of Central Organisation for Railway Electrification (CORE).
CORE, which is responsible for electrification of railway tracks in India, plans to electrify all broad-gauge routes by December 2023.
Aside from significantly cutting operation and maintenance costs and carbon emissions, the electric traction system would also cut travel time by 10 to 15 percent, show documents.
Transport expert Prof Hadiuzzaman, director of Buet's Accident Research Institute, said although initial investment for electric trains is relatively high, its operational and maintenance costs are much lower. The system is also environment-friendly and more reliable, he said.
Currently, Bangladesh produces enough electricity, and more power-plants are in the pipeline, so such systems have potential in Bangladesh, he added.
In February 2015, BR sent a proposal to the railways ministry on carrying out a feasibility study on electrifying the Dhaka-Chattagram route, BR documents show.
The ministry in June that year asked BR to add Dhaka-Narayanganj route too. Accordingly, BR modified the proposal and sent it to the Planning Commission in August that year.
In January 2016, the commission asked BR to modify the proposal again and fixed the feasibility study cost at Tk 8.12 crore, against the proposed figure of Tk 9.58 crore.
Two months later, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave directives to introduce electric trains on Narayanganj-Gazipur route in the first phase.
Subsequently, in July 2016, Planning Commission asked BR to modify their proposal to conduct a feasibility study on Narayanganj-Dhaka-Joydebpur route, instead of Dhaka-Chattogram.
BR again sent a modified proposal in June 2017, but early this year, the decision changed again, following directives of government high-ups, and
BR sent a revised proposal to electrify two routes -- Narayanganj-Dhaka-Chattogram and Tongi-Joydebpur -- a BR official said, wishing not to be named.
The commission held a meeting over the proposal in May this year, and finally, the planning minister gave the go-ahead for the project.
WHAT BR SAYS
Talking to The Daily Star on October 12, BR Director General Dhirendra Nath Mazumder said the entire world is going for electric trains, and they must do so too.
"We are ready to start electrifying the railways, but the government has to give the go-ahead," he said. "It is not possible for me to say when we will start electrification."
Talking about India's railway, he said Bangladesh's railway system was neglected during the Pakistan rule and after the assasination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Besides, many railway structures were destroyed during the Liberation War.
So, comparing railways of Bangladesh and India is not rational, he added.