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Central railway corridor beckons new horizons

Published : Tuesday, 5 December, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 181

The main structural impediment to rail connectivity in Bangladesh is that the expansion of railways planned by the British Raj with a view to regional connectivity in Greater Bengal, was no longer viable and practical due to Partition and India-Pakistan conflict. As a result, many affluent townships dependent on railways turned into ghostly, desolate, poverty-stricken unimportant wasteland.

 The Bangabandhu Rail Bridge which is under construction has opened up new horizons of possibilities in the rail communication of Bangladesh and South Asia. Besides, the expansion of rail network in new areas and the existing complications in the current rail communication have brought new dreams. Besides Dhaka-Jessore, Dhaka-Mongla, Chittagong-Cox's Bazar, Dhaka-Chittagong Double Line, Sirajganj-Bogra railway and many new railways under implementation in North and South Bengal, railway communication has become a great means of prosperity and potential.

But one of the serious problems that still remain in rail connectivity is the lack of direct rail connectivity between North Bengal and East Bengal.

 If a person travels from 16 districts of North Bengal(Rangpur and Rajshahi division) to 15 districts of East Bengal (Sylhet or Chittagong division) or similarly from Sylhet, East Bengal to North Bengal by rail, he has to use two corridors namely Bhairab Bazar and Jamuna Setu. Now the problem is that by using these two corridors North Bengal Sylhet Chittagong and even nowadays people from South Bengal have to go from the west side of the country to the east side from the north west to the south east and then to the north east. That means any person from the 16 districts of North Bengal want go to East Bengal, one has to come to Dhaka first and then go to East Bengal via Bhairav. Again any passenger from East Bengal has to come to Dhaka via Bhairav and travel to North Bengal via Jamuna Bridge vice versa. Another alternative route from Yamuna Bridge to Bhairav is via Sarishabari-Mymensingh-Gouripur, which is a much longer and time-consuming route that is not commonly used by commuters.

The best route of the proposed corridor considering demographic, geographical, economic and overall aspects may be from Bangabandhu Yamuna Railway Bridge to Kalihati Sakhipur via Jitashwar/Sarasia to Bhaluka town to Hatikhla in Gafargaon, Hosseinpur via New Bazar to Kishoreganj town south to Jashodle Bhairab Mymensingh railway connection. If the new railway  If it can be built, it will be the involvement of the maximum number of people by creating the shortest path at the lowest cost. If the railway is built, more than half of the people of the country will benefit directly and it is conceivable in simple statistics that more people will benefit from any mega project currently underway.  Geographically, the Bangabandhu Jamuna Rail Bridge-Kalihati-Sakhipur-Bhaluka-Gafargaon-Kishorganj corridor could be the most profitable people-friendly route in Bangladesh's rail connectivity and the most important step in bridging the connectivity gap between North Bengal and East Bengal.

The railway will also be cost-effective as the entire area of the above corridor is flood-free and most of the route will be through Pleistocene red clay and almost flat terrain.  Besides, there are no significant river barriers on this route except the old Brahmaputra (a shallow river with a width of only 600 m). Also, in many cases, there is an opportunity to expand the railway by utilizing the unused portion of land occupied for regional highways, which will be very helpful in reducing the cost of land acquisition.

 Chittagong division has direct rail link with North Bengal or South Bengal with Sylhet division which is playing an important role in the decentralization of rail communication. In the near future the two divisions on both sides of Meghna may also be connected to each other.  It will be directly helpful to reduce. In the interest of more than half of the people of the country, the relevant policy makers of the state can think about this way.

The writer is a NGO worker & development activist

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