Gauge unification of Bangladesh Railway track

Md. Miajahan
Additional Director General (Operation) Bangladesh Railway

Rail transport refers to the land transport of passengers and goods along railways or railroads. A railway (or railroad) track consists of two parallel rail tracks, formerly of iron but now of steel. Usually vehicles running on the rails are arranged in a train (a series of individual powered or unpowered vehicles linked together). The cars move with much less friction and the locomotive that pulls the train uses much less energy than is needed to pull wagons.

A railway may be defined as a high value, fixed guidance land transport system, carrying passengers and freight in purpose-built carriages, using specifically designed, high power traction systems and controlled by high integrity safety systems. So Railways are subject to :

  •  Strictly regulated safety regimes,
  • Reliable long distance communications
  • Specially trained staff meeting all requirements,
  •  Sometimes working alone in hostile environments.
  •  Need to regular maintenance
  •  The costs of a railway do not normally offer a commercial return on investment
  • And therefore requires substantial government subsidy, thus bringing with it a high degree of intrusive political interference and often malevolent media reporting.

    Evolution of Railway

  • Roman were the first try running of animals drawn vehicles on stone line (parallel).
  • 15th century, wooden rail in Europe- good speed.
  • Wooden rail above were covered by iron at the next stage.
  •  Using angle iron to prevent lateral movement.
  • The above were replaced with raised flange (cost Iron C.I.) .
  •  It was observed that animals can draw vehicle on C.I. better than on roads.
  • 17th century, thinking of device to replace the animals was found.
  • In France, Nicolas Cugnot at 1771 constructed steam locomotive.
  • In Britain 1786, William Murdock prepared steam locomotive model.
  • 1797-1804 it was designed (steam locomotive).
  • First complete success 1781-1848 George Stephenson had got complete success.
  •  In 1825 on 27 September, the first running of Train was successes between Stockton and Darlington.

Development of Railway and Introduction of Rail Gauge
Rail Gauge is the distance between the inner sides of the two parallel rails which make up a railway track. Sixty percent of the world’s railways use a gauge of 1,435 m (4 ft 81/2 in), which is known as the standard or international gauge. Rail Gauges wider than standard gauge are called broad gauge, and rail Gauges smaller than standard gauge are called narrow gauge. Some stretches of track are built to a dual gauge: that is to say that three (or sometimes four) parallel running rails are laid in place of the usual two, in order to allow trains of two different gauges to share the same route. The term break-of-gauge refers to the situation obtaining at a place where different gauges meet.

Great Britain was the first country to develop modern railway, and events there had a world-wide impact. a large variety of gauges were used for the primitive railways that developed in mining districts during the late eighteen century, including 4,8″ (1422 mm.) on a small group of lines that brought coal to the river Tyne near Newcastle. It was there, however, that the gifted mechanical engineer George Stephenson performed early experiments with steam locomotion during the 1810s. In recognition of his broad abilities, Stephenson was asked to build the two railway that together introduced a new era of construction and operating practice, the Stockton a Darlington Railway, opened in 1825, and the Liverpool and Manchester (L&M) Railway, opened in 1830.

The L&M was the first railway designed exclusively for steam locomotion and the first to rely exclusively on commercial and passenger rather then mining traffic. Nevertheless, Stephenson used the same 4’8″ gauge as before- except for adding half an inch (13 mm.) between the rails to allow for more space between rails and wheel flanges.

Stephenson gave on particular thought to the question of optimal gauge but rather simply followed precedent .As Stephenson’s son Robert later told a parliamentary commission , his Father did not “propose” the gauge but rather ” adopted” what was already in used in his home region ( Great Britain, 1846, Minutes ). Stephenson’s friend and biographer Samuel Smiles (1868) wrote that the gauge “was not fixed after any scientific theory, but adopted.

Continental Europe
Belgium, France, Austria, and several of the then independent German and Italian states adopted the Stephenson gauge during the mid-to late 1830s. Stephenson himself introduced the gauge to Belgium, his portages or other British Engineers did so in several countries, and in other places local engineers either accepted the gauge as one element of current best practice or else simply fitted their track to British locomotives. This common influence greatly limited the amount of diversity that might have developed. Some of the German states apparently followed the prior choices of others, as an integrated German Railway network was part of the pan-German economic program promoted by Friedrich List. Prussia was interested in a common-gauge link to France, but otherwise there if little evidence that choices of gauge were influenced initially by the desire to develop an integrated continental network.

At the early Governments did ensure, however, that domestic railways adopted a common gauge. The lack of interest in international standardization is clearly evident in the adoption of broad gauges during the late 1830s and 1840s by the Netherlands (1945 mm._ the German grand duchy of Baden (1600mm), Russia (1524mm), and Spain (1672mm), Following much of contemporary British opinion and practice, the government-commissioned engineers (local except in Russia) who selected each of these gauges saw them as embodying a more advanced railway technology. Contrary to a common belief, Russia’s gauge was not chosen as a defensive military measure (Haywood, 1969). With the probable exception of Baden, these countries did not foresee that railways would soon begin to displace water transport in international commerce; Baden sought to have neighboring countries adopt the same gauge.

North America
Builders of the earliest North American railways also regarded the Stephenson gauge as best practice, but they interpreted this practice loosely, introducing gauges of 4’10” (1473mm) and 5’0″ as well as 4’8.5′, between 1830 and 1832.

Rest of the world
The patterns of gauge selection in Latin America, Africa, Australia, and Asia cab be addressed here only in very broad stokes. Regions were Railway were introduced by the 1860s adopted either the Stephenson gauge of broader gauge; regions where railway were introduced later adopted the Stephenson gauge or narrower. Because railway builders differed in their preferred gauge, diversity emerged bas local common-gauge network of different gauge come into contact. Less of this diversity was resolved than in Europe and North America, in large part due to lower demand for interregional and international transport.
Why Gauge Unification?
Historically, an interest in compatibility was offer relatively weak in the early years of railways, Railway builder did not foresee the future value of long-distance railway transport, and thus they placed little value on compatibility with previous lines, except for these nearby. As time went on, railway builders places an increasing value on compatibility, but in some cases they also placed increasing value on particulars variant gauges generally broad gauges from the late 1830s to the 1860s to about 1900. In rare cases, variant gauges were chosen partly for the purpose of controlling regional traffic.

Equipment supply particulars of locomotives seems to have affected only a few choices in Europe and one in North America, as suppliers offered equipment for all the usual gauges and also built to order. Early choices of gauge were generally made by individual local railway companies or governments, with little regard for the effects of their choices on others, later, cooperation and the formation of interregional railway systems led to increased coordination of choices, often facilitation the resolution of early diversity. At the time of Reconstruction Europe after second world war multiple rail gauge need to be unify for better rail transportation in this region . At same time rest of the world think to unify their rail gauge for establishing interoperable rail transportation between neighboring countries . As a result now western Europe to China Freight Train Running Without any transshipment of Cargo .

Difficulties of Multi Gauge system Railway
1. Inconvenience to passenger .At every change of gauge, passenger have to change the train.
2. Missing the train in case of letting.
3. Transshipment of goods. At junctions, goods must be unloaded.
4. Any fault of labors leads to miss send of goods.
5. Extra cost.
6. Transshipment of goods. Rolling stokes and old engine of one gauge cannot be used on branch gauge.
7. In case of needs, More transportation to one point it is impossible to use the train because of the difference of gauge.
8. Extra difficulties to army in war time.
9. Changing is very difficult, because it needs to change the tunnels bridges etc.

Gauge Unification in Bangladesh Railway
Bangladesh region Railway started its Journey in 1862 at time of British colonial rule. After independence in 1947 the than east Pakistan railway and after 1971 the Independence of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Railway was basically divided in to four part. West side of Jamuna river Broad Gauge and Meter gauge, East side of Jamuna Meter gauge and east side of Rupsa broad gauge.

Present Rail Friendly Govt. of Bangladesh take a Bold step to Established Multipurpose Bridge over Mighty Jamuna and connect divided railway with East and West by introducing DUAL GAUGE. It was the first Gauge Unification Process of Bangladesh Railway. A small railway like Bangladesh can’t Developed with Multi-gauge system.

As per Railway master Plan of Bangladesh Railway 2045 all railway route came under same (BG) gauge. The gauge conversion is essential for establishing regional connectivity Under Trans a Asian Rail network as well as internal rail route development for interoperability.

Bangladesh government has recently committed to convert not only its international trade corridors but also the entire existing national rail network to BG in order to achieved the inherent transport efficiencies that BG railway offers. Neighboring country India takes its Gauge Unification Policy early 1990’s. at same time all over the world different countries take new initiatives for established interoperability with neighboring countries railways. Gauge Unification policy play a major role among the countries Rail Transportation Infrastructure Deve-lopment Plan.

On November 10, 2006 Seventeen Asian Countries ratified the Trans-Asian Railway Network Agreement, under which they agreed to integrate a continental railroad network by connecting lines but refrained from adopting standards for interoperability (UNTC 2006), namely a common gauge (track width). This agreement culminated over 50 years of negotiations, during which proposals were ‘frustrated to a large extend by a lack of uniform railway gauge’ across national boundaries (UNESCAP 1996), much like similar proposed treaties in Europe and in the Middle East (UNTC 1991, 2003). To this day, there are at least five distinct gauge in use across the proposed Europe and Asian rail network necessitating costly transshipment where railroad meet.

In a nutshell its true that the Railway track gauge conversion and Unified Standardization process triggered a significant redistribution of Passenger and freight traffic from Other transport mode to railroads and act as driving force to increase its aggregate trade, at same time to achieved Operational cost-savings by its gauge conversion.

After converting existing gauge to uniform gauge Bangladesh Railway can achieved some following facilities like:

  • Higher use of Rolling stock and more train can be operate
  • Operational expenses will reduced
  • More Train Operations can be scheduled
  •  Higher benefits to its users and operational ratio can be minimize
  • Extra facilities with different specifications are not required
  •  Multiple tracks, yards and equipment with different specifications not required
  •  Better and efficient movement
  •  Direct connectivity to different areas previously served by MG
  • Boosting investor’s confidence
  • Speed of train can be Higher than MG track.
  •  No transshipments of Passenger and Goods in Junction stations.

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