Dhaka to Bhanga proposed train fare higher than bus fare

For the first time, a train travelled from Dhaka to Bhanga railway junction crossing the Padma Bridge. Photo taken from Baman Kanda railway junction area in Bhanga, Faridpur on 7 September.

The fare to travel from Dhaka to Chattogram on a Shovon chair (non-AC) seat on intercity train Turna Express is Tk 345. And the fare for an AC chair seat is Tk 656. The distance travelled on this route is 321 kilometres.

On the other hand the distance from Dhaka to Faridpur’s Bhanga via Padma Bridge is just 77 kilometres. To reach this destination on an intercity train (non-AC), one might have to pay a fare of Tk 350. And to travel on an AC chair it would cost them Tk 667.

The railway committee has proposed these fares for the trains that would travel on the Padma Bridge from Dhaka. Now the proposal is awaiting railway ministry’s approval.

Railway sources say that the proposed fare rate might be approved after all. If that happens, train passengers would have to pay more than bus commuters to travel the same.

It was found in railway authority’s analysis that the non-AC bus fare of traveling from Dhaka to Bhanga is Tk 250 and for AC bus it is Tk 500.

While proposing the fare, the railway committee has counted additional distance for the Padma Bridge and the Gendaria-Keraniganj flyover with the actual distance of every destination from Dhaka.

As a result, passengers travelling on the Dhaka-Bhanga route would have to pay more compared to those travelling on Dhaka-Chattogram, Dhaka-Sylhet or Dhaka-Rajshahi route.

Railway sources said that each kilometer of distance on the Padma Bridge has been counted as 25 km. The railway authorities are labeling this as additional distance because of the pontage charge. Meanwhile, every kilometer of distance on the Gandaria-Keraniganj flyover has been considered as equal to five kilometres.

That’s why though the actual distance between Dhaka and Bhanga is 77 km, the railway wants to collect the fare for a distance of 353 km.

The latest train route stretched from Dhaka to Bhanga through the Padma Bridge is about to be launched. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to inaugurate this train route tomorrow, Tuesday.

Railway officials say that full-fledged train movement on this route with passengers could begin from next November. Initially, three trains might operate from Dhaka via Padma Bridge.

It has been learnt through railway sources that the intercity train Sundarban Express will be travelling from Dhaka to Khulna via Padma Bridge. From Bhanga, the train will travel to Khulna via Rajbari, Paturia, Kushtia’s Poradah and Jashore. The train currently runs via Ishwardi and Kushtia using Bangabandhu Bridge.

Meanwhile, there’s another proposal to run a train from Rajshahi to Dhaka. At present, the Madhumati Express train runs from Rajshahi to Bhanga and there are plans to extend the route of this train up to Dhaka through the Padma Bridge. Besides, the railway is also thinking of operating a commuter train on the Dhaka-Padma Bridge-Rajbari route.

A total of 172 km of new railway line is being constructed from Dhaka to Jashore under Padma Bridge rail Link Project. The project cost has been estimated at around Tk 400 billion (40,000 crore).

The Dhaka to Bhanga section of the rail line will be inaugurated tomorrow (Tuesday). Out of that, about 23 km rail line starting from Dhaka’s Gandaria to Keraniganj is on the flyover. And the railway is advancing with the plan of opening the rail line up to Jashore next year.

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Once the whole rail track has been opened, trains would be able to reach Khulna via Faridpur, Gopalganj, Narail and Jashore using the Padma Bridge. Similarly, train movement would be possible on the North Bengal track via Rajbari. And, there are plans to build rail line up to Patuakhal’s Payra via Barishal in future.

It was the bridges division that constructed the Padma Bridge while the railway authorities laid the rail tracks on the bridge. So, the bridge authority would be collecting toll for the train movement. But, these two government agencies couldn’t yet reach a unanimous decision on the toll rate.

When asked about the fares, railways secretary Humayun Kabir told Prothom Alo that local and commuter trains will run on this route and the fare of those trains will be a lot lower. The fares for the intercity trains are indeed a bit higher. However, the fares will drop once the entire rail track up to Jashore has been opened.

The way fares would be fixed

Railway’s current base fare for AC class is Tk 1.95 per kilometer and it’s Tk 1.17 for non-AC class. There are four types of train- local, mail, commuter and intercity, running in the country. The fare varies based on the type of train.

Besides, there are different classes like Shovon chair, AC chair and AC berth (sleeper seat) in the intercity trains. The minimum fare for local trains is Tk 5 while for intercity it’s Tk 35. But, if there are bridges and flyovers on the way the minimum fare gets increased.

The distance between Dhaka and Padma station on the other end of Padma Bridge is 55 km. Proposed fare to travel this distance in Shovon chair is Tk 330, for AC chair Tk 633 and for AC seat it’s Tk 759.  

According to railway sources, trains now travel on the Khulna route via Bangabandhu Bridge. Trains running on this route have to travel quite a long distance. But, if they travel through the Padma Bridge the distance would be shortened.

As a result, it would cost less time and money for the passengers travelling from Jashore and Khulna to reach their destinations. But, the fare would be higher for travelling to Madaripur, Faridpur, Rajbari or Narail. Similarly, the fare of transporting goods would also be increased.

Committee activities

A seven-member committee headed by railway’s chief commercial manager (CCM) in the eastern zone, Mohammad Nazmul Islam was formed on last 24 September. The committee was given total four responsibilities.

The duties were: determining how many additional kilometers (pontage charge) will be added for each kilometer of distance travelled on the Padma Bridge; proposing a stable formula for the railways to determine pontage charge; determining the fares of transport people and goods via Padma Bridge; and determining the fares of AC luggage vans.

The committee held a meeting at the railway building on 2 October and submitted a report before the railway director general on 4 October.

After analysing the existent pontage charge of four bridges, the committee sated that currently there is no precise method of determining pontage charge at the railway. So considering all aspects, they have proposed to add 25 extra km for every kilometre of distance travelled on the Padma Bridge.

Besides, they counted five additional kilometres for each kilometre of distance on the flyover, considering it a bridge or viaduct. The committee in its report has recommended using this method in case of all the new bridges and viaducts in future.

The 6.15-km long Padma Bridge has been considered as 154 km of rail track in the report prepared by the committee. And the 23-km long flyover from Dhaka’s Gandaria to Keraniganj has been counted as 115 km of rail track.

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Railway sources said that additional kilometres are now included in the railway for crossing five bridges in total. But, the rate for that isn’t as high as that of the Padma Bridge.

In case of the 4.8-km long Bangabandhu bridge, the fare is collected by considering it a distance of 81 km. In other words, 16.75 km of extra distance has been added for each kilometre travelled on the bridge.

When it comes to 1.8-km long Hardinge bridge, a total of 41 km distance at the rate of 22.75 km per kilometre is counted additionally. The length of the Bhairab bridge is just one kilometre but the fare is collected for a distance of 23 km. Meanwhile, the Brahmaputra bridge is four kilometre long and the fare is collected for a distance of 16 km.

The railway has recently launched AC luggage van services. The committee has proposed to double the fare for AC coaches compared to non-AC coaches.

At present, the fare for one kg cargo is Tk 2.35 except for electronics in non-AC luggage vans on the Dhaka-Chattogram route. In that sense, the fare can go up to Tk 4.70 per kg for AC luggage vans.