Country Listing

Bangladesh Table of Contents



The railroads carry about 2 percent of the nation's cargo. In 1986 Bangladesh had about 2,818 kilometers of railroad track, all of it owned and operated by the government's Bangladesh Railways. Two-thirds of the track (1,838 kilometers) was meter gauge, and the remainder (980 kilometers) was broad gauge. Much of the rail system was rehabilitated in the early 1980s with the assistance of an Asian Development Bank loan.

There were 288 locomotives--mostly diesel powered--serving the rail system in 1986. This was a significant decline from the more than 500 locomotives operating in the early 1970s. The volume of freight carried in more than 19,600 cars steadily decreased in the 1980s, however, going from more than 3 million tons in FY 1982 to 2.3 million tons in FY 1986. Most of the bulk cargo was wheat, fertilizer, sugarcane, raw jute, rice, and cement. With more than 1,660 coaches in use, passenger service was available and popular between large towns; there were some 82 million passengers in FY 1986. In the late 1980s, the government was attempting to improve the quality of that service by adding special fast trains, particularly between Dhaka and Chittagong.

Most rail lines in Bangladesh run from north to south, following the north-south river system, and many freight and passenger journeys include a combination of rail and water movement. East-west lines exist but are a minor part of the total system. Because of the nation's numerous waterways, an average of six bridges or culverts are required per kilometer of rail line. As a result, Bangladesh has some 3,630 rail bridges. Railroad beds, built on the only high ground in some parts of the country, provide a refuge in times of flooding. During periods of high water, trains often are the major form of mass transportation.

Data as of September 1988