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Monday, February 8, 2016

Saturday, December 22, 2012
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Railway goes backward

Wants to buy 70 outdated locomotives to favour a company; lobbying against it delays purchase

Bangladesh Railway's move to buy 70 meter-gauge diesel-electric locomotives has been delayed by over a year due to lobbying by potential bidders to change a criterion of the tender that favours only one company.

The companies argued that the locomotives railway authorities were trying to procure were of half-a-century-old technology and their production was ceasing with the emergence of new generation locomotives that were cheaper, faster, more powerful and environment friendly.

Over the years, the number of railway locomotives has reduced to 295 from 486. Most of them are 40 to 50 years old. The railway desperately needs new locomotives.

The companies complained that a technical specification of the tender restricts most globally renowned locomotive manufacturers to take part in the bidding while it favours a certain company from which the railway had been buying locomotives since the 50s.

The railway in September, 2011, floated an international tender to buy the locomotives that have engine revolution capacity of 900 to 1,000 per minute (RPM) for around $250 to 285 million. But most locomotive manufacturers make engines that run at higher RPMs, up to 1,900 RPMs.

Reputable companies like GE (General Electric), Cummins, Bombardier, Malaysia-Thailand Umbrella (MTU), Siemens and Caterpillar were urging the rail authorities to increase the RPM limit so that all companies could take part in the bidding.

They said the companies used to produce low RPM locomotives but gradually moved to higher RPM engines as they have more torque, power, besides being fuel efficient and environment friendly.

They said only General Motors produces low RPM locomotives. General Electric also produces some low RPM locomotive engines but it was switching to higher RPM ones.

The representatives of the companies also argued that restricting the RPM would only favour Korean Hyundai Rotem that has sold nine locomotives to the railway in 2010.

Hyundai Rotem brings parts of locomotives from the USA and assembles them in Korea. It would supply 11 more locomotives to Bangladesh in 2013.

“If the RPM limit is increased, the bidding will be competitive and ultimately the price would be low. If not, then only one company will be eligible and railway will have no way but to buy the locomotives at whatever price the company quotes,” said a representative of a company.

However, the railway has been arguing for the low RPM engines as they have a proven track record in the country.

“We have workshops and expert manpower to maintain the locomotives,” said Bangladesh Railway Director General Md Abu Taher.

He claimed that the higher RPM engines were very light and not durable for railway. He did not agree that higher RPM engines would consume less fuel and be environment friendly. “It will increase maintenance cost,” he added.

But many countries across the world now use higher RPM engines for faster rail services.

The companies said the railway could save $1 million per locomotive if it buys higher RPM locomotives. It is cheaper because the locomotives are mass-produced.

“The pulling strength will increase with higher RPM engines. The low RPM locomotives can't pull if several extra coaches and wagons are added,” claimed a company representative.

He said railway would not face any trouble as spare parts would come with the locomotives and railway people would be trained under the project. “Rather the railway would in near future face problems if production of low RPM engines stops,” he added.

The companies said whenever they push for changing the RPM limitations, railway officials bring in the Hungarian case as an excuse.

Railway had bought 80 diesel-hydraulic locomotives from Hungary in 1980-82 which became obsolete within a few years. The railway DG referring to that said the locomotives had become a liability for the railway.

But the reality is that the locomotives were diesel-hydraulic and of low quality. Railway knew about the locomotives but they had to buy them due to pressure from the then government.

The companies said their quality high RPM engines were not comparable with the Hungarian engines.

In the face of pressure from potential bidders, the railway authorities recently increased the RPM limit of engines in the tender specification to 900-1,100.

However, this increase has no meaning as Hyundai Rotem could only manufacture locomotives that have engines of 1,100 RPM.

The representatives of potential bidders claim that the railway has been giving excuses for 30 years just to buy locomotives from a single company.

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Sad! Why opt of inefficiency!

: Ferdous Jalil

The nation is tired of the lobbyists and commission agents who are enriching themselves at the cost of the common people. They are unproductive rent seekers only. The cumulative cost of the delay is also sagging the development effort of the country. Shoot them all to purify our land of cants. Of course, that includes their patrons whose greedy tongue is vitiating everything that they touch.

: Reaz Hassan


  • Translucent
    Saturday, December 22, 2012 01:44 AM GMT+06:00 (163 weeks ago)

    Does anybody in the world still use meter-gauge railway?.....apart from India. We are heading backwards is exactly right.

  • Choudhury
    Saturday, December 22, 2012 02:28 AM GMT+06:00 (163 weeks ago)

    The Railway directory general should be fired for his short sightedness and leaned towards one particular company. Bangladesh should look forward and not look back. This could be a potential chance for ACC to look into.

  • rch
    Saturday, December 22, 2012 04:08 AM GMT+06:00 (163 weeks ago)

    Don't you think this report would have been more practical if the DS journalist had time to talk to Retired Professional from Bangladesh Railway ? The flaws of this report are : 1) It only gives arguments from others bidders -sure they will have their sales pitch, 2) What happens if you buy high RPM Engines but under utilise it? 3) What is the cost-benefit ratio in the long run? 4) What is the effect on the existing decades old lines? 5) Technical Capability of BR and how the new suppliers can help that within the package? Let's do a proper analysis and then find out the existing black cat!

  • Selma
    Saturday, December 22, 2012 04:04 AM GMT+06:00 (163 weeks ago)

    I now realise why it takes over six hours to travel to Chittagong from Dhaka when this should be no more than 90 minutes as it is in UK or 40 minutes if it is in France!

    I hope common sense prevails and Railway Ministry makes the specification more up to date as it will speed up travel time, increase capacity and reduce procurement costs as there will be more bidders including bidders from Balkans, Brazil and South Africa.

  • Barkat
    Saturday, December 22, 2012 04:29 AM GMT+06:00 (163 weeks ago)

    What is new in this news.Each and every department and ministry of this government is corrupt. Now PM and her government will come out and first deny all this fact.

  • Sengupta, Canada
    Saturday, December 22, 2012 12:14 AM GMT+06:00 (163 weeks ago)

    Another scam again!

  • Shah Ziauddin
    Saturday, December 22, 2012 05:29 AM GMT+06:00 (163 weeks ago)

    Corruption only can destroy a system and contrarily gives benefit to a handful of people who ethically commit a crime. Is it not a crime to facilitate one company to participate in a bid? How long Bangladeshi general people will be victimised through bigwig corruption? Wish sanity prevail among railway top bosses to upgrade the railway system by collecting modern engines and equipment.

    Saturday, December 22, 2012 06:59 AM GMT+06:00 (163 weeks ago)

    It appears that Bangladesh Railway is run by technicians and not engineers. The DG is an well known graduate engineer but he must obtain support from his staff, who I fear, might be composed of technicians only, whom we popularly term as 'diploma engineers'. Actually this is a misnomer as degree is English and other is French. They are not rightly educated because since 1961 our schools are of 12 classes and our polytechnic graduates complete only 10 classes to get admitted to diploma engineering courses. The improper schooling keep them unprepared for any change, which they do not understand and avoid. Actually it is the lack of education among technical staff of BR that is creating all those problems. Modern railway use 160 km/h locomotives to pull goods trains, use Diesel Multiple Units for regional or local trains or EMU, Tram and Tram-Trains in suburban routes and Metro in urban transport. You need engineers with basic school education of high caliber and with proper technical education, viz., as engineers and technicians.

  • Micky Diaz
    Saturday, December 22, 2012 10:43 AM GMT+06:00 (163 weeks ago)

    This report slightly contradicts with the other report on the same subject published in the Prothom Alo (PA) on 10 Dec. 2012. The Prothom Alo report indicated that the specification was made to favour GM, Korea Unit. But the Daily Star report is saying that the specification with favour Hyundai Rotem.





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