THE Bangladesh Railway, which runs the largest public transport system, counted Tk 17.38 billion in losses in the 2019 financial year, as official statistics say, with its net operating income standing at Tk 13.92 billion and the operating expenses at Tk 31.30 billion. The agency incurred losses of Tk 14.31 billion in the 2018 financial year, Tk 15.31 billion in the 2017 financial year and Tk 13.25 billion in the 2016 financial year. The losses are said to have largely resulted from how the railway system limps with poor services caused by problems such as train schedule disruption, shortage of tickets and others. The government last increased train fares, for both passenger and freight, in February 2016 by an average of 7.23 per cent so that services on offer could be better. But the increase that time was effected against the backdrop of the failure of the authorities to offer better services when the government on October 1, 2012 increased the fares, for both passenger and freight, in the ranges of 50–115 per cent, with similar promises. But the services have yet to improve. Yet there has been another move going on since this March to increase train fare for one more round.
A major visible change that the railway authorities could make during the period is the introduction of diesel-electric multiple unit trains — in the eastern zone in April 2013 and in the western zone in May that year — which have received only complaints about the services since they were put into operation. The authorities had to spend Tk 250 million on DEMU services in 2013–2017, as media reported early 2018, to earn Tk 193 million in the period. Disruption in train schedules, weak sections of railway lines in some areas and the shortage of tickets have for long troubled the railway. In recent years, a hefty amount of money has been invested in the development of the railway system, but that has failed to improve the services, giving birth, naturally, to allegations that some railway officials have benefited from the investments. The director general of the agency, as New Age reported on Wednesday, seeks to say that they are trying to plug the loopholes to stop the losses. Against this backdrop, the railway is holding its routine services week, beginning today, to mark the eighth founding anniversary of the railway ministry and to improve its services, with the former apparently having more priority because experts feel that such an observance will hardly improve railway services unless the authorities decidedly put in more efforts and ensure good governance in the sector.
The railway is reported to have been mired in irregularities, inefficiency and mismanagement. All these problems having retained, fresh initiatives for improvement in services for a short period and a fresh increase in railway fares for both passenger and freight with promises of quality services are highly unlikely to make any positive impact on railway services. The authorities concerned must, therefore, mend the loose ends in railway governance to make trains roar along railway.
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