The large number of rivers and the annual flooding hazard make it difficult to build and maintain adequate transportation facilities in Bangladesh. Railways and waterways are the chief means of transportation. The railways are managed by the government and reach most districts of the country. The Bangladesh Railway operated 2,745 km (1,706 mi) of track in 2002. The quality of service has declined because of the expense of importing new equipment. Enlarging and improving the railway system is also costly, partly because of the number of bridges needed.
The country has two deepwater ports: Chittagong, serving the eastern sector, and Chalna, serving the west. There are five main river ports—Dhaka, Na¯rāyanganj, Chandpur, Barisal, and Khulna—and more than 1,500 smaller ports. The inland water system has an estimated 5,150-8,046 km (3,200-5,000 mi) of navigable waterways, including 2,575-3,058 km (1,600-1,900 mi) of main cargo routes. The oceangoing merchant fleet in 2002 consisted of 34 ships of 1,000 GRT or over, with a combined capacity of 269,932 GRT.
Road connections are inadequate, but conditions have improved significantly in recent years. There were 201,182 km (125,014 mi) of roadways in 2002, of which 19,112 km (11,876 mi) were paved. A large part of the highway system becomes submerged in the rainy season; bridges, ferries, embankments, and dikes are therefore necessary to the inland transportation system. Because of the difficulties of land travel, the number of motor vehicles remains relatively small.
Bangladesh had 18 airports in 2001, 15 with paved runways. Zia International is the principal airport, located at Dhaka. Bangladesh Biman is the national airline. It has an extended network connecting major cities and operates international flights from Dhaka. In 2001, airlines carried 1,450,000 domestic and international passengers.