High-speed rail in Bangladesh: Towards a monumental upshift
The high-speed rail (HSR) system is the very phenomenon that has been pushing the traditional rails towards oblivion across the world. Numerous developed and developing countries have radically transformed their long-route transportation systems with the introduction of HSR. It is the mid-20th century wonder that has been the fastest means of rapid land transportation.
Looking back, countries like Japan, France, the USA, Germany, and more from the European region played significant roles in the early advancements of HSR systems. But over the last couple of decades, China has shown an incredible development with its HSR. The Chinese government has been very proactive regarding the R&D of their national railway systems and has shown praiseworthy planning as well as investments in the relevant sectors since the '90s.
The initial designs and prototypes had the benchmark of nearing or exceeding 200 km/h, which soon had seen the light of success--credit goes to cutting edge engineering by the aforementioned countries. As the bar kept rising in constructive competition among the nations, attaining 250--350 km/h was also no longer comprehended impossible. Various sources confirm that the fastest high-speed commercial train in the world right now is the 'Shanghai Maglev,' with maximum operational speeds of over 400 km/h!
Many of us adhere to the famous words of Benjamin Franklin--'Time is Money,' although the meaning can be quite ambiguous. One possible interpretation could be that, if the available time is utilized in the best possible manner, one can expect to gain the best financial output from it. This is perhaps one of the core factors why the most progressive of the nations emphasize so much on their trains, saving their population their precious times. Nations like the USA, Russia, Japan, and China have their economies booming, as they leverage their work hours in the most efficient possible ways.
HSR systems eliminate the time people waste waiting in the stations while traveling to and from their workplaces. In many countries, HSRs are very cost-efficient for the mass. It also takes fewer hours than airplanes in many regions while saving a lot on the ticket fares. HSRs also take off a substantial load of passengers from the other public transportations like bus and taxi; hence the roads see a more balanced pressure in the traffic.
Bangladesh ranks 8th in the list of the world's countries in terms of population. As of 2020, near 40 per cent of the total population resides and operates in urban areas, where the needs and frequencies of public transportation are higher. With more and more people entering the employment hubs, the government has been sensing the urge to introduce a more sustainable transportation apparatus. HSR can possibly be the prime solution Bangladesh requires, given its manifold utilities and profitability.
If Bangladesh can lay the parallel lines for a locomotive to run over 200 km/h, traveling from Dhaka to Chattogram would take less than two hours. This could be great news for businesses that depend on intercity movements. People who live outside the capital would no longer have to struggle to find a crib in the expensive regions near their workplaces, which also indicates a reduced strain over Dhaka and other large cities' residential capacities. In passive ways, HSR can also contribute to saving fuel, increasing the efficiency of human resources, and extending the streak of urbanization in the currently lesser developed areas.
With almost similar socio-economic scenarios and GDP status, our neighboring country India has already progressed much towards establishing its first HSR systems. Renowned Chinese rail construction company China Railway Group Limited (CREC) has already expressed its interest to the government regarding the prospects of HSR in the country. It seems the potential project will lead both the nation and the largest Chinese railway company towards a win-win situation, as the 160 million+ population dreams for a more efficient economy. CREC has an incredible reputation for its project success rates and engineering marvels across the world.
Notable projects of the company includes Beijing-Tianjin Intercity High-Speed Railway, Wuhan-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway which is the world's first passenger dedicated line with the speed of 350km per hour; Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Rail which is China's longest high-speed railway; Harbin-Dalian High-Speed Railway which is the world's longest high-speed passenger dedicated line passing through mountainous areas; Beijing-Guangzhou High-Speed Rail which is the world's high-speed railway with the longest mileages and the list goes on. Jakarta-Bandung, Tehran-Isfahan high-speed railway are the ongoing projects of the company which are to be completed soon. With one such partner, Bangladesh might just be awaiting a monumental shift in the history of its railway!
M. A. Monayem, Earthwork Engineer Incharge, Mawa Bhanga section,
Padma Bridge Rail Link Project