Bangladesh's maiden railway carriage-production plant is going to be established at Syedpur hub to meet a growing demand of the popular mass transport, now up for expansion.
Officials said Monday the state-owned Bangladesh Railway (BR) will first conduct a feasibility study on the carriage-manufacturing workshop before starting construction of the import-substitution unit, which holds the potential of saving the country billions of dollars that go for import financing.
"We have taken a Tk 7.54 billion project to set up the plant at Syedpur. We have sought approval for the project from the Planning Commission (PC). After getting endorsement, we will begin the building work," said a senior BR official.
He said Bangladesh will have to import hundreds of railway-carriage units over the next one decade to meet local demand due to the shortage of those passenger coaches, as the government has undertaken and plans mega-projects for expansion and uplift of the railway services.
Besides, the BR has invested billions of US dollars over the last few years to upgrade the railway tracks, supporting facilities and its overall services.
"We have a plan to build the carriage-production factory by 2021," the official said.
He said the carriage factory would be set up with the financial support of India. India is expected to provide Tk 6.23 billion for funding the project.
Bangladesh is currently fully dependent on import of train carriages, locomotives and other machinery and tools for the railway services across the country.
The state-owned railway-service provider usually imports carriages from countries including India, China, Indonesia and Korea for strengthening its fleet.
The Railway official said: "We have a workshop at Syedpur where some repair and maintenance works take place. If we can set up a carriage- production unit there, the Railway's capacity will be upgraded and huge foreign currency will be saved."
According to the BR, Syedpur railway workshop is already a rich one in Bangladesh where all repair facilities are available.
"If we upgrade the workshop as the production unit of carriages, we need not import the passenger coaches in the near future," said another BR official.
The workshop was set up on 112 acres of land in 1817. There are 29 working shops inside this factory, in which production activities are carried out by bringing in labourers from one workshop or another.
This workshop has the capacity to repair at least 570 metre-gauge (MG) and broad-gauge (BG) passenger compartments and at least 430 wagons a year, but this capability is on the wane owing to the shortage of manpower and other crises.
On the other hand, on-duty labourers and employees have to work with machines that are over 150-year old. Yet, some 60 coaches are repaired on the 112 acres of fallow land inside the factory.
The BR over the last few years had imported more than 250 freight MG wagons and some 150 passenger-carrying BG coaches from India and another 100 MG and 50 BG coaches from Indonesia. Some 500 more carriages are in the pipeline from abroad, sources said.