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Railway performs poorly

16 June 2021

NEARLY half of the 41 projects under Bangladesh Railway involving around Tk 142,193 crore will have to be revised after the end of the current fiscal year because of poor implementation. Usually, with extension, the cost of most of the projects -- aimed at improving railway services -- would escalate, prolonging people's wait for better services.
According to a report published in a national daily on Tuesday, the Railways Ministry has a long record of poor implementation rate of the annual development programme (ADP). In the last five fiscal years, document shows, the ministry could not even achieve the average implementation target, except in fiscal 2017-18. Of the projects, only four are to meet their June closing date. Recently, two projects were taken up at a board meeting while 24 others would be taken up by this month. The railway wants to extend the timescale for 19 projects beyond June. Among the projects, 22 are scheduled to be completed by 2021, followed by six in 2022, three in 2023, four in 2024 and one in 2025.
Experts found poor planning owing to weak feasibility studies, lack of accountability, shortage of skilled manpower, vested interests and corruption as the reasons behind slow progress of implementation of railway projects. They have suggested for carrying out feasibility studies considering all necessary elements. However, they alleged that consultants carry out feasibility studies as per the wishes of their clients. This type of malpractice continues as the consultants, project authorities and implementing or approving agencies are never held responsible for poor planning.
As reported, the projects include construction of the 64.75-kilometre-long Khulna-Mongla Port rail line, which was supposed to be completed within three years of its approval in December 2010. But the project's physical work did not kick off six years after approval. In the meantime, the cost of the project rose to Tk 3,801 crore, 120 per cent above the original estimate. The project authorities recently sought another Tk 633.4 crore and an 18-month extension of the project's current deadline. Another project is the Akhaura and Laksam Double Line project, which was approved in December 2014 for completion by June 2020. Such poor planning and execution of projects only reflects the state of lack of accountability.

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