Locomotives have yet kept running through the unsafe bridges, leading occasionally to minor and major accidents
It has been 56 years since the Barhatta Rail Bridge under the Bangladesh Railway East Zone lost its longevity but it is still being used, reflecting the "utter neglect" to it and people's lives.
The lifespan of 43% of bridges, including eight important ones, in the region has already ended and the bridges have turned very risky.
Yet locomotives have kept running through the unsafe bridges, leading occasionally to minor and major accidents.
There are even instances of rail communications remaining snapped for five days at a stretch as a result of such accidents.
There are 2,083 rail bridges in Chattogram, Dhaka, Sylhet and Mymensingh under the east zone, according to the Railway Engineering Department (East Zone). Of them, 1,821 are minor, 234 are major and 28 are important bridges. However, 893 of these bridges have gone past their lifespan long ago.
If the length of a span between two pillars of a bridge is more than 100 feet, it is considered an important bridge, and major if the length is more than 60 feet and minor if its length is less than 60 feet.
The Kalurghat Bridge, built in 1931 over the River Karnaphuli, is one of the important bridges that expired 28 years ago.
The Bhairab Bridge over the River Meghna was built in 1937 and its lifespan ended 22 years ago.
Built in 1914, the Shambhuganj Bridge over the River Brahmaputra in Mymensingh expired 45 years ago.
The Melandaha Bridge on the River Jhenai was constructed in 1929. Its longevity ended 30 years ago. The Barhatta Bridge over the Kangsha River was built in 1903 and expired 56 years ago.
The remaining three important rail bridges are Chatak Bazar Abjalabad Bridge, Khajanchigaon Bridge and Chhatak Bazar Bridge. The three bridges were built in 1951 and lost longevity eight years ago.
The authorities have begun to work on a project to rebuild the rail bridges that have lost longevity
They are mulling reconstructing 505 bridges. Of them, six are important bridges, 48 major and 451 minor ones. The project cost has been estimated at Tk1,583 crore.
A list of the bridges has been sent to the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) for navigation clearance.
However, the authorities could not give any specific information about the timeframe of the project formulation, its approval and implementation.
Sardar Shahadat Ali, general manager of Bangladesh Railway (East Zone), told The Business Standard, "The bridges that have lost their lifespans are being repaired and trains are running through those."
He, however, said, "It is not possible to say with certainty when these will be rebuilt. Work is underway on a project to reconstruct the bridges. It is a long process."
Trains often meet with accidents while crossing the risky bridges. On 29 April 2019, three wagons of a train carrying furnace oil fell into a canal, spreading to an 11-mile area of Hathazari upazila.
On 1 February 2018, the railway bridge between Fenchuganj and the Kushiyara in Sylhet collapsed and train services remained suspended for two days.
On 30 March 2017, the Itakhala railway bridge in Madhabpur collapsed, forcing rail communication with Sylhet to be suspended for five days as a result.