Bangladesh is likely to join the Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) network by signing an inter-governmental agreement to this effect in the South Korean city of Busan in November next.
The government has taken an initiative for signing the multinational pact under the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) after finding the TAR route layout suitable for the country.
The project was initiated more than five decades ago to promote trade and tourism among 32 Asian and European countries by linking about 81,000 rail-routes.
Though Dhaka has made substantial progress in signing the Trans-Asian Railway accord, it has so far expressed unwillingness to sign the Asian Highway accord under the same organistion.
"The country has strong reservation on the proposed layout of the Asian highway. But the layout of the Asian Railway is favourable for the country," said a high official of the communications ministry.
The ministry sought opinion of the Bangladesh Railway (BR) on the UNESCAP-proposed routes and sub-routes inside the country and the BR's opinion has been positive.
According to the route layout proposed by the UNESCAP, the TAR Route-I from Gede in West Bengal of India runs through Darshana, Jamuna bridge, Tongi, Akhaura, Chittagong, Dohazari and Ghundum in Bangladesh.
The route, that will treat the Tongi-Dhaka and Akhaura-Khlaura-Shabajpur to Mahisasan in India as sub-routes, will run to the border station in Myanmar.
The TAR Route-II connects India and Bangladesh through Singabad in West Bengal and Rohanpur of Nawabganj in Bangladesh. The route runs through Rajshahi and Akhaura and has access to other routes and sub-routes.
Under the TAR Route-III, Bangladesh will be connected with Radhikapur in West Begal on the Indian side through Birol. Like the TAR Route-II, it will also have access to other routes and sub-routes inside Bangladesh.
The communications ministry now will seek approval of the cabinet body before sending a representative in this regard to Busan in November, added the officials.
Bangladesh has been placed in a group under the TAR that includes India, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Turkey sharing about 22,600 kilometres of railroad. A total of 2,734 km railroad has been proposed to be included in the project.
The TAR agreement signing ceremony is scheduled for November 6-11. The decision was taken in the UNESCAP's 62nd session held in last April in the Thai capital Bangkok.
Increasing international trade, surging volume of containerised freight forwarding through the ports of the Asia-Pacific region and the recognition of importance of greater regional integration are facilitating implementation of the TAR, which also offers an opportunity to upgrade the existing infrastructure or construct new ones.
With this in mind, the member countries opted to define a framework, within which they can discuss and plan the future expansion, upgradation and operation of the TAR network.
In 2005, the inter-governmental agreement on the TAR was adopted.