POLITICAL UNREST COSTS RAILWAY TK 100 CRORE
319 attacks during 10 months
State-owned Bangladesh Railway (BR) incurred a loss of around Tk 100 crore during the 10-month political turbulence when it became the prime target of at least 319 attacks.
The BR authorities are now scrambling to make up the loss through initiating a string of measures that include repairing of the damaged coaches and locomotives.
“We have already recovered some losses by repairing damaged coaches and locomotives at our workshops at Saidpur, Phahartali and Parbatipur,” railway minister Md. Mujibul Haque told The Independent narrating some of the steps. The minister also claimed some renovated coaches and train engines have already joined the railway fleet, ensuring smooth operations of all 334 trains every day.
An additional amount of Tk 10 crore was spent on security measures, including advanced piloting, track-patrolling and deployment of Ansar, VDP and BGB personnel. The remaining loss of Tk 90 crore stemmed from the attacks on railways. Moreover, BR incurred revenue loss due to the drop in the number of passengers during the period of political turbulence.
“It is not possible to recover the loss of Tk 90 crore, but we are trying to regain the trust of passengers in the country’s cheapest communication system by maintaining timely schedules and offering smooth services,” Bangladesh Railway director general (DG) Md Tofazzal Hossain said. He also claimed that almost all trains were running at normal speed for the past one month.
The attacks on the rail sector increased manifold after the death penalty was awarded to Jamaat leader Delwar Hussain Sayedee for war crimes committed in 1971. The terror attacks continued till the end of 2013 and were particularly acute in the last two months of 2013, railway reports state.
According to railway sources, the country’s 334 passenger trains carry nearly 1.8 lakh passengers across the nation every day, raking in Tk 1.3 crore daily. “The figure fell by almost half during the pre-poll political violence stoked by the Opposition,” railway officials alleged.
The railway study further shows that from February to December last year, miscreants directed 319 terror attacks on railway infrastructure. Rail coaches and locomotives were torched or pelted at and tracks, bridges and fishplates were either destroyed or dismantled. As many as 206 attacks occurred in the railway’s east zone and the rest in its west zone. Three, including a Railway Nirapotta Bahini (RNB) staff member, were killed and several hundreds were injured in the attacks.
According to the estimates, 112 coaches and 57 locomotives, worth Tk 19.46 crore and Tk 4.1 crore, were torched in 2013. A loss of Tk 66 crore was incurred in repairing damaged rail tracks and fishplates and restoring signal systems and torched rail stations and bridges. Nearly Tk 10 crore was spent on tightening the security system to ensure safe journey of the trains, advanced piloting and track-patrolling and deployment of lawmen in large numbers. The loss also includes the setback to revenue income caused by the dwindling number of passengers.
The analysis also shows that in November 2012 almost 51.31 lakh passengers commuted by train across the country, which dropped to 46.50 lakh in the corresponding period in 2013. The number of railway passengers dropped to 31 lakh in December 2013, which was 44 lakh in December 2012.
Conceding their limitations, a railway official said: “We are yet to repair all the coaches, which were badly damaged in the recent anti-government political activities, resulting in the composition of each regular train having two to three coaches less.”
The data observes that the spate of attacks started after the schedule of the 10th national poll was announced on November 25. Between November 26 and December 1, 2013, 88 incidents of subversive activities were directed against railway properties across the country.
On 31 December and on New Year’s Day, miscreants removed fishplates at Rajshahi of railway west zone and Comilla of east, derailing five compartments and the engine of the inter-city train Dhumketu Express. Seven compartments and the engine of the Mahanagar Godhuli were affected in another incident. Around 50 passengers sustained injuries in the later. Train services resumed three days after the attack, which has gone down as one of the worst in recent years, the report states.
To check the number of casualties and prevent losses in railway properties, the authorities of Bangladesh Railway had to reduce the speed of the trains, collapsing train schedules, much to the inconvenience of commuters. The railway authorities cancelled 60 trips in six days. Of those, the highest, 28 train trips were cancelled on 27 November.
Fifteen DEMU and oil-carrying trains also went out of operation at that point of time.
To prevent sabotage to railway infrastructure in the future, the railway authorities have increased vigil over 2,835 km of rail tracks. But the number of law enforcers engaged in maintaining the vigil is not enough to ensure safe movement of trains, fear railway authorities.
FEBRUARY 09, 2014