Ministry of Railways18-September, 2013 17:21 IST
Delegation of Journalists from Bangladesh Calls on Railway Minister
A delegation of visiting journalists from Bangladesh called on the Minister of Railways Sh. Mallikarjun Kharge here today. Also present on the occasion were Chairman, Railway Board, Sh. Arunendra Kumar, Member Traffic, Shri D P Pandey, Member Engineering, Sh. Subodh Jain, CMD, IRCON, Shri Mohan Tiwari, Director, RITES, Shri S.Sinha, besides senior officials from Railways and Ministry of External Affairs.

Following is the text of Railway Minister’s speech:-

“On behalf of Ministry of Railways, Government of India and personally on my behalf, I take this opportunity to express our gratitude and extend you all a warm and hearty welcome. It is indeed a great privilege, personally for me and for my colleagues, to be a part of this esteemed meeting.

As you might be aware that Indian Railway is today the topmost railway in the world as far as passenger numbers is concerned by transporting passengers equivalent to almost the population of the entire world every year, and with a loading close to 1010 million tonnes in 2012-13, has become the fourth member of the select billion tonne club after USA, China and Russia. Indian Railways is the 3rd largest Rail system in the world, with an asset base of 65187 Route kms, 9000 locomotives, 53000 passenger coaches and 2.3 lakh wagons. Indian Railway today runs in excess of 19000 trains per day including 12000 passengers and 7000 freight, to carry more than 8 billion passengers and over 1000 Million Tonnes of freight per annum through the efforts of a dedicated work force of almost 1.4 million employees.

Our meeting today is taking place at a very important juncture in the relationship between our countries. We are delighted at many positive developments which have been taking place between the two countries. A number of steps have been taken to improve the people to people contact by both the countries. It is in the backdrop of these initiatives that we are meeting today.

Indian and Bangladesh Railways already have a mature and professional relationship spreading over several decades. This tradition, I am sure, will help us in arriving at decisions which are of mutual benefit.

During the last few years, there have been significant developments in technology and management practices on both the Railways. It will be our endeavour that the benefits of these developments accrue to our users.

The Governments of India and Bangladesh have recently signed the Memorandum of Understanding on February 16, 2013 in Dhaka for construction of new rail link between Akhaura (Bangladesh) and Agartala (India).

One bi-weekly passenger train, Maitree Express, runs between Kolkata and Dhaka Cantonment. Its transit time has been reduced from 12 hours to 10½ hours and its days of running have been changed to suit the travelling public from both ends. Its popularity is gradually increasing. The increasing popularity of Maitree Express shows the deep relationship between the people of the two countries. Improving the services and increasing its frequency also remains an important aspect. Measures are being taken to improve the travel experience in Maitree Express. One such initiative recently undertaken is to provide sitting arrangements to the passengers at Gede station while waiting for immigration and customs checks, thereafter passengers are permitted to entrain as soon as they finish their checks. Steps are being taken to introduce the system of booking return tickets by Maitree Express.

Every year in February, a pilgrim special train is run from Rajbari (Bangladesh) to Midnapore (India) for the pilgrims to attend the Urs Sharif at Midnapore. Anjuman-E-Quaderia/Bangladesh organizes this special train. The train is run by both Bangladesh and Indian Railways.

The operation of freight trains between the two countries is regulated by the Fundamental and Subsidiary Rules. Wagons of Indian Railways are used for the freight traffic. About 0.2 million metric ton of cargo is moved by rail per annum. 99% of the cargo moved by rail is Bangladesh imports from India. The major commodities are gypsum, stone, de-oiled cake, onions, sugar, maize and food grain.

To improve the trade through railways, the two Railways are jointly working towards containerization of cargo and setting up suitable rail linked Inland Container Depots to handle this cargo. A Joint Team has been set up comprising of Officials of Container Corporation of India, Bangladesh Railway and Indian High Commission to study all aspects of moving container trains between the two countries.

All the Railway-related issues between the two countries are discussed in the high level meeting called Inter-Governmental Railway Meeting (IGRM) which is held alternately in New Delhi and Dhaka every year. Besides this, meetings are also held at zonal and divisional levels to address local issues.

Of the 16 projects that have been included in the USD 800 million Indian Line of Credit to Bangladesh, 13 are railway projects amounting to USD 687.4 million. Projects include procurement of rolling stock and development of infrastructure. Railway projects usually have long gestation periods. However, 3 projects have already been completed. These include supply of diesel locomotives from Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi and broad gauge & meter gauge tank wagons from private manufacturers.

Bangladesh Railway has great potential to develop into the lifeline of transportation system of Bangladesh. Freight traffic is the breadwinner of any railway. Bangladesh Railway may take measures to increase its freight traffic. Unification of gauge has helped Indian Railways reach the stage where more than one billion metric tons of freight is carried per annum. Bangladesh Railway could also plan in this direction. Containerization is the future of all trade. At present the container train movement is limited to the eastern part of Bangladesh Railway. Container train services must be made available across the country. Some rail linked Inland Container Depots may be set up in the Western part of Bangladesh Railway to facilitate bilateral trade. With the steadily growing economy it is imperative that railways are developed in Bangladesh to help sustain that growth. Indian Railway is eager to partner the progress of Bangladesh Railway.

Two of the Public Sector Undertakings of my Ministry, namely, IRCON International Limited and RITES Limited are closely associated with Bangladesh Railways.

IRCON’S Association with Bangladesh Railway is in the field of Project Execution since 1982. IRCON is working closely with Bangladesh Railways and Indian High Commission in Dhaka for the last 2 years in Developing and Formulating railway projects under the US$ 800 Million Line of Credit extended to Bangladesh by India. Few important projects in Bangladesh under execution / finalization by IRCON are, Construction of 2nd Bhairab Railway Bridges with Approach Rail lines and Construction of Akhaura-Agartala Rail link.

RITES association with Bangladesh Railway is in field of supply of Locomotives, maintenance of Rolling Stock and training of Bangladesh Rail Personnel since 1984.The RITES have completed many projects in the past. Presently, RITES is executing two projects, namely Procurement of 26 BG Diesel Locomotives with spares and training and Feasibility Report of New Coach Manufacturing Unit at Saidpur Workshop.

I am confident that deliberations today will further help in improving trade, commerce and people to people contact between our countries.

I look forward to a free, constructive and very fruitful interaction which will help in meeting the expectations of both the countries.

Once again, I extend our hearty welcome and look forward to a constructive dialogue. Thanking you.”

(Release ID :99444)