Bangladesh Railway to increase passenger train fares

New prices likely to be effective from next month

Sujit Saha, Chittagong Bureau

Bonik Barta illustration

Fares for all passenger trains that cover more than 100 kilometers of distance are set to increase. Mainly, the increase is taking place with the abolition of the concessional facility for travelling more than 100 kilometers. Besides, step has been taken to boost the income of Bangladesh Railway by increasing the ticket prices for the extra coaches attached to the stipulated carriages of the trains, say individuals concerned.      

Bangladesh Railway has already received the approval from the top level in this regard. Sohoz, the private operator involved in ticket management, has already been given the account of station to station commercial distance to implement the increase. At the same time, a process is underway to raise the fares manually (offline). According to the sources concerned at Bangladesh Railway, it is highly likely that the increased fares will come into effect from April 1.

Railway officials are of the opinion that though the number of passengers increased in recent years, the revenue of the government body did not increase proportionately as rail tickets are cheaper as compared to road and water transports. Railway cannot get of the losing cycle due to high spending against low income. Train fares were last increased in 2016. Since then, the operating costs of the organization, including fuel and spare parts and salaries of the employees, have increased, but the ticket prices have not gone up that much. Initiatives were taken on few occasions to rise the fares but could not be implemented due to political consideration despite incurring loss.  

As per Railway sources, the expenditure of the organization stood at Tk 33.07 billion in 2022-23 fiscal year. During the same period, it earned Tk 17.83 billion. That means, Railway spent Tk 15.24 billion more than it earned in the last fiscal. The government organization saw some profit only in 1998-99 fiscal. In that year, it earned a net profit of Tk 185 million. After that Railway has been incurring loss continuously for two decades and a half. Under such a situation, the organization is going to take a multifaceted approach to enhance its income. Apart from increasing fares, it is now paying attention in expanding routes and transporting goods.

Earlier, Bangladesh Railway increased fares in 2012 and 2016. In October, 2012, it increased the fares by minimum 5 percent and maximum 110 percent. In February, 2016, fares were up by 7-9 per cent. Nearly seven and half years after that in late 2023, the Railway took an initiative to increase its revenue through imposing charges on use of the bridges and viaducts. Now, initiative has been taken to withdraw the concessional facility for travelling over 100 kilometers. And, additional charges for extra coaches will be levied based on classes. Railway officials concerned believe that with these measures, the income of the organization will be up by Tk 3 billion every year.             

“The government already invested Tk 1 trillion in the development of the rail sector. There are plans to take the rail services to international level through implementing different projects,” a top official of Bangladesh Railway’s operations department told Bonik Barta on condition of anonymity.

“But, the government is in a bit of a dilemma about the fare increase despite the fact that the loss incurred by Railway is increasing every year. Therefore, the Railway is trying to enhance its revenue by withdrawing the existing concessional facilities,” he said.   

The concessional facilities for distance-based rail fares started in 1992. People concerned say that transportation of passengers and goods at that time was below the capacity. The concessional facilities based on distance and section were introduced to attract people. The section-based concessional facility was withdrawn in 2012. Due to the distance-based concessional facility, the prices for long distance transportation of passengers and goods remains low. Apart from new Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar rail route, concessional facility applies to every route over 100 kilometers. For 101 to 250 kilometers, the concessional rate is 20 percent while it is 25 percent for 251 to 400 kilometers.       

According to Bangladesh Railway authorities, the non-air-conditioned bus fare from Dhaka to Chittagong is Tk 680. The same standard railway ticket from Dhaka to Chittagong costs Tk 345. The ticket prices for local, mail or express trains are from Tk 120 to Tk 150. As a result, services face extra pressure alongside black-marketing of tickets, but the Railway is deprived of deserved revenue. In October, last year, the Railway started imposing portage charge on the use of its bridges and viaducts, increasing its revenue.  

Sometimes, extra coaches are attached to the stipulated number of carriages of a train to meet the demand of private and public organizations as well as individuals. It requires more fuel and people. The Railway can earn more if there is demand in both ways. In cases of extra coaches, additional 20 percent for Shovon and 30 percent for higher classes will be added.          

On February 13, the Ministry of Railways made a proposal in this regard for the prime minister. Railways Minister Zillul Hakim and Secretary Dr Humayun Kabir signed the proposal. On March 2, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the proposal.

When approached for comments, Bangladesh Railway Chief Planning Officer Salimullah Bahar told Bonik Barta, “The train fares in Bangladesh are way cheaper in accordance with standards and services. The Railways incurs loss although people get benefitted. It is essential to bring the rail fares to the level of bus fares to make the Railway more dynamic. But, for the time being, principal fares will not be increased, rather process is on to enhance the revenue through withdrawal of the existing concessional facilities. It will be possible to reduce the loss by increasing revenue gradually through implementing the modernization projects.”

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