An adequate and efficient transport system is a pre-requisite for both initiating and sustaining economic development. Investment in improving transport efficiency is the key to expansion and integration of markets - sub-national, national and international. It also helps the generation of economies of scale, increased competition, reduced cost, systematic urbanization, export-led faster growth and a larger share of international trade.
The transport system of Bangladesh consists of roads, railways, inland waterways, two sea ports, maritime shipping and civil aviation catering for both domestic and international traffic. Presently there are about 21,000 km of paved roads; 2,706 route-kilometers of railways (BG-884 km and MG -1,822 km); 3,800 km of perennial waterways which increase to 6,000 km during the monsoon, 2 seaports and 2 international (Dhaka and Chittagong) and 8 domestic airports.
In Bangladesh, development and maintenance of transport infrastructure is essentially the responsibilities of the public sector as are the provision of railways transportation services and air transport. The public sector is involved in transport operations in road, inland water transport (IWT) and ocean shipping alongside the private sector. In the road transport and IWT sub-sectors, the private sector is dominant. In ocean shipping, however, public sector still predominates, although the private sector has considerably increased its role in this sector in recent years. Recently private sector has also been involved in domestic air transport and railway in a very limited scale.
Growth of Different Modes of Transportation
1. Bangladesh witnessed rapid growth of transport since Independence. The overall annual growth rate was nearly 8.2 per cent for freight transport and 8.4 per cent for passenger transport. Even then the transport intensity of the Bangladesh economy is considerably lower than that of many developing countries.
2. The relative roles of transport modes are evolving with road transport expanding at the expense of railways and inland water transport because of its inherent technical and cost advantages. According to Bangladesh Transport Sector Study (1994), the volume of road transport increased by 88 per cent from 1985 through 1993, whereas the volume of transport by water as well as rail declined in almost equal proportion.
3. With the commissioning of the Bangabandhu Bridge, the volume of road transport for both passenger and freight is expected to increase quite substantially. In order to enable the beneficiaries to avail of its full potentials, the bridge will generate demand for construction of by-passes and roads and bridges in different strategic parts of the country. Thus, the future expansion program of each of the surface transport modes in providing transport services depends crucially on government policy and investment decisions keeping in view the past transport development trend and the recently changed scenario in the transport sector. Modal shares of three surface transports- road, inland water way and railway in 1997 (estimated on the basis of 1993 and 1996 data) are 72 per cent, 17 per cent and 11 per cent respectively for passengers and 65 per cent, 28 per cent and 7 per cent respectively for freight.
The development of surface transport system in Bangladesh is constrained by three distinct sets of factors. These are physical (e.g., difficult terrain, periodic flooding, poor soil condition, siltation and erosion of rivers, inherited management weaknesses of BR etc.), low investments and maintenance and inadequate institutional framework (four ministries, nine transport sector parastatals and lack of co-ordination and autonomy of transport parastatals).
Transport Sector Allocation in Past Plans
The public sector...