BR east zone limps with rundown coaches

Shahin Akhter

More than half of the metre gauge passenger carriages of the east zone of the Bangladesh Railway are operating beyond their economic life, leading to recurrent disruptions in service due to maintenance backlog.
The railway has around 1,100 metre gauge carriages and of them 930 carriages operate in the east zone, according to BR statistics.
Now, 496, or 53 per cent, of the east zone carriages have served their economic life of 35 years, BR officials have said, adding that these carriages often go out of order and put passengers’ life at risk in incidents of derailment.
Besides, they fail to maintain these carriages for lack of manpower, machinery and adequate budget, they added.
According to the detailed project plan of proposed Rehabilitation of BR’s 100 Metre Gauge Carriages project, out of these 496 coaches 356, or 72 per cent carriages have been running with general overhaul overdue and the number of such carriage is increasing day by day.
These carriages are running for 41 years to 50 years with different important passenger trains, said the officials.
Last year, the railway had decided to repair 200 metre gauge carriages, which were in most vulnerable condition, out of the east zone’s fleet.
Under an approved project that year, the railway also initiated to overhaul 100 coaches through outsourcing.
Under the proposed project railway, however, is planning to rehabilitate 100 coaches with its own manpower.
The government-funded proposed project had been prepared in March this year with an estimated cost of Tk 59.30 crore. The project plan was sent to the Planning Commission on April 4 for approval.
Currently, of the railway’s total carriages 575 — 450 metre gauge and 125 broad gauge — are waiting to be repaired, said officials.
Since 1994, Bangladesh Railway rehabilitated a total of 628 carriages while rehabilitation of 100 carriages is ongoing.
Meanwhile, the railway officials have said that currently at BR’s Syedpur railway workshop 56 per cent posts are vacant while 40 per cent posts are vacant at Pahartali workshop in Chittagong.
At both workshops, about 60 per cent machinery are more than 50 years old, they have said, adding that lack of budget is another major hurdle to the regular maintenance of the rundown carriages.
The proposed project’s steering committee chair and railways ministry secretary, Feroz Salah Uddin, has told New Age they are currently rehabilitating 100 metre gauge carriages by outsourcing.
The proposed project is scheduled to be completed on June 2019.

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